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Copia ‘will re-open 1 December’

Copia, the troubled wine, food and arts centre in Napa, should re-open on 1 December, its chief executive said.

The centre closed its doors on Friday and did not reopen over the weekend.

A sign on the door said the closure was temporary and referred visitors to www.copia.org.

A book signing by New York chef Andrew Carmellini on Saturday night was cancelled.

The only mention of the closure is on the calendar of events on the homepage, where a link saying ‘Closed’ after 30 November brings up the notice, ‘COPIA is temporarily closed. We apologize for any inconvenience.’

CEO and president Garry McGuire told decanter.com, ‘We are in the final stages of negotiation to reach a resolution of the financial problems facing the centre.’

The centre would re-open on 1 December. ‘That is the plan’, he said.

Copia is US$78m in debt – but that debt is tied to the property itself: ‘Independent of the buildings, Copia is a healthy business,’ McGuire said.

A possible plan therefore is to sell off its 12-acre waterfront property, and then lease back part of the property to continue classes and events, at the same time as opening a new facility in San Francisco, where Copia already offers a programme of classes that attracts more students than Napa.

McGuire said that the centre had evolved from its inception in 2001 as a wine and food museum. It was now more committed to education and events, and needed extensive modification.

Lastly he stressed, ‘We are committed to Copia’s home base and headquarters remaining in Napa.’

In September Copia laid off 24 of its 80 full-time employees and scaled back opening days to three days a week, depending on the season.

The US$55m centre opened in 2001, with extensive funding from the Robert Mondavi family – which has given some US$25m to date. It never became the major force in the world of wine and food that was hoped.

In 2005 decanter.com reported that 9/11, the collapse of the dotcom bubble and the slowdown in the American economy had all conspired to halve attendances from the 300,000 expected to 150,000.

The following year it lost a third of its staff and sold off half its land to developers.

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Written by Adam Lechmere

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