Three in central Pa. among top liquor license bidders

Following the latest restaurant license auction, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has issued Notices of Selection to the top bidders on 20 licenses, three of which are in central Pennsylvania.

The local top bidders, with the license’s municipality and county, are:

· Specialty Lenders Ltd., Steelton, Dauphin County, $110,000

· Byler Holdings LP, Lebanon, Lebanon County, $151,001

· CHR Corp., Spring Garden Township, York County, $300,000

The deadline for submitting bids was Oct. 31. Winning bids ranged from $25,111 for a license in Benezette Township, Elk County, to $460,751 for a license in Uwchlan, Chester County. The average winning bid was $154,833.

A total of 69 bids were received, and one license in Cambria County received no bids.

Top bidders have 14 days from the date of each Notice of Selection to submit full bid payment to the Liquor Control Board. If payment is not received in a timely manner, the second-highest bidder will have the opportunity to purchase the license.

Each auction winner has six months from the issuance of the Notice of Selection to file a license application with the Liquor Control Board. Bids are held in escrow pending approval of the license application.

Revenue from previous license auctions is $32.9 million, with another $100,000 in escrow.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

State to hold online auction of surplus heavy equipment

The state Department of General Services will hold an online public auction of more than 280 pieces of surplus heavy equipment from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, starting at noon June 20 and ending at 10 a.m. July 5.

Up for bid are air compressors, snowplow trucks and snowplows, anti-icing trucks, motor graders, excavators, wheel and backhoe loaders, asphalt equipment, single-, tandem- and tri-axle dump trucks, spreaders, skid steers and more.

Interested bidders can view the list of items, currently being updated, on govplanet.com/penndot. In order to bid, they must register using the “Register Now” button.

The auction offers the public “quality … heavy equipment no longer being used by PennDOT at a fair price,” a release explained. “With the recent increased demand and limited supply of these types of items, the online heavy equipment auction is an ideal opportunity for members of the public to add this type of equipment to their operations.”

The Department of General Services’ State Surplus Property Program is responsible for coordinating these auctions for PennDOT.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

Armstrong Flooring awaits approval for auction, receives financing to continue operations 

Armstrong Flooring’s Lancaster campus consists of its corporate offices and design center. The company employs 420 people in Lancaster County. PHOTO/IOANNIS PASHAKIS

After filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy earlier this month, Lancaster-based Armstrong Flooring is looking to auction its assets in a competitive bidding period next month. 

The flooring designer and manufacturer filed a motion in bankruptcy court to sell some or all of its assets. Bidding for the auction would be due June 14 with the auction itself being held June 17. 

A hearing on the motion is set to take place in a Delaware bankruptcy court on May 26. 

As it awaits a ruling on the auction, the court approved Armstrong Flooring to access consensual debtor-in-possession financing totaling $24 million in net new money. 

The financing is expected to provide the company with the liquidity it needs to continue operating as it pursues a sale. 

Lenders Pathlight Capital and Bank of America are providing the $24 million. The two financial institutions previously looked to the court to deny the debtor-in-possession financing and liquidate Armstrong Flooring but have since agreed to finance the company in anticipation of a sale, according to filings. 

Armstrong Flooring has also received approval for a critical vendor motion, which allows it to use $9 million of critical vendor funds to pay off certain pre-petition claims of vendors and service providers. 

According to Armstrong Flooring’s filings with the court, the company began looking into selling some or all of its assets last fall after receiving indications of interest from three potential bidders. 

In response, the company retained Los Angeles-based investment banking firm, Houlihan Lokey Capital, to help with the sale of the company and the consideration of other strategic options. 

Today, Armstrong Flooring has two interested bidders looking to purchase undisclosed assets from the company. One of the bidders has completed the second week of its two-week diligence period and is working with Armstrong Flooring to draft a definitive purchase agreement. 

Federal courthouse in Harrisburg opens starting bid at $3 million 

The Ronald Reagan Federal Building and Courthouse at 228 Walnut Street. PHOTO PROVIDED.

The Ronald Reagan Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse located in Harrisburg’s central business district has been listed for sale at a starting bid of $3 million.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) announced this week that it will be selling its 11-story, 246,000-square-foot building ahead of the construction of its new 243,000-square-foot courthouse set to be completed next summer.

The Harrisburg courthouse was built in 1966 and sits across from the city’s Strawberry Square and the Pennsylvania State Capitol Complex at 228 Walnut Street.

The listing refers to the property as a redevelopment opportunity, noting its location in the city, access to 55 parking spaces and its location in a Qualified Opportunity Zone. It sits on a .695-acre parcel and could be eligible for a 10-year tax abatement on any improvements.

Documents accompanying the listing note that the building was constructed before 1978, meaning that the walls could have been painted with lead-based paints. The property also contains asbestos-containing materials and bidders are invited to inspect the property before submitting a bid.

The property is open for inspection by appointment only by registered bidders who have paid a $100,000 registration deposit.

The GSA provides procurement for the federal government by managing its real estate portfolio of over 370 million rentable square feet across the country.

It began construction of the city’s new federal building and courthouse in 2019 after it was found that the existing building did not meet federal security and expansion requirements.

The new 243,000-square-foot courthouse will be located at 6th and Reily Streets in Harrisburg and is expected to feature eight courtrooms and eleven chambers.

It is planned for a summer 2022 opening date with its exterior finishing by the end of next year.

Tenants for the new courthouse include: the Pennsylvania 3rd Circuit U.S. Courts, U.S. Courts, U.S. Marshal Service, U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Trustees.

Hanover Goodwill sells package of retro games for $30,000

Goodwill Keystone Area sold a package of Nintendo Entertainment System games for $30,000 on Goodwill’s auction website. The games include Metroid and Metal Gear, two popular franchises. PHOTO/PROVIDED

The original 1985 Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) is a relic given today’s more advanced game technology.

But for anyone who has managed to keep or find retro video games in pristine condition, a competitive market of collectors is driving up prices with buyers willing to spend thousands for the right games in the right condition.

Nichole Garcia, a donated services representative at Goodwill Keystone Area’s Hanover store, was aware of that market when she came across a brand new NES and 27 sealed cartridges for the system.

The games, all released in the late 80’s and early 90’s included two heavy hitters for collectors, Metroid (1986) and Metal Gear (1987), and ultimately sold as a package on Goodwill’s bidding platform for $30,000.

“My brother-in-law sells collectible items and knows about Nintendo systems and games,” Garcia said.  “When they were posted to our shopgoodwill.com site, I sent him a link. He thought they would sell for well over $10,000. I had no idea the final bid would land where it did but was thrilled.”

The bid started at $9.99 and grew to its final amount after eight days and 143 bidders. The package of cartridges is the highest selling item that Goodwill Keystone Area has put up for bid.

Goodwill Keystone Area includes 40 thrift stores and donation centers across 22 southeast and central Pennsylvania counties.

For a collector of retro video games, that $30,000 price tag isn’t surprising.

This month marked the first time a video game was sold for over $1 million– a copy of 1996’s Super Mario 64 which sold for $1.56 million on Dallas-based auction company Heritage Auctions’ online auction.

The popular auction site also sold a copy of Super Mario Bros. on the NES for $660,000 in April.

At $30,000, the goodwill auction was actually a steal, according to Zac Grieg, president of Just Press Play, a Lancaster County video game store with three locations.

“I would have certainly bid that auction higher,” Grieg said. “Those games in that lot, from what I could tell and the condition they were in, if they were graded and sold that would have been over $100k.”


Making the Grade

While just finding a copy of a game can be a win for a collector, getting your hands on a complete, sealed game and getting it graded is where the real money is, according to Grieg.

Collectible grading as an industry has been around for some time in the coin, comics and card collecting space but video game grading took off with the advent of grading services like Wata Games and the Video Game Authority in the mid 2000’s.

To grade a game, collectors send their copies to a grader, who evaluates it based on the wear of the seal and sends it back in a case with the grading attached. The highest graded games usually drive the highest bids at auction.

Metroid on the NES sold as part of Goodwill’s $30,000 auction. That game alone sold for $46,800 on Heritage Auction last year with a Wata grade of 9.4 A+.


Happy Memories of Pokémon

Game collecting as a hobby has exploded in recent years and even more so during the pandemic.

This year has been one of the best on record for Hanover-based Vault Games. Owner Robert Betz attributes this year’s success to new collector’s joining the hobby during lockdown.

“Since we reopened during the pandemic the demand for video games has been really high with everyone stuck at home,” he said. “Not many small businesses are saying this but we are probably having one of the best years we ever had after COVID.”

Those new collectors have shifted the market. Where at one point retro collectors looked for rare, undersold games, many new collectors are more interested in buying and selling games that they grew up with.

“Historically, game collectors have always gone for rarity,” said Grieg. “The people that are now coming in, they want things they played as kids. Everyone played Mario, Zelda, Pokémon and Tetris. A couple years ago, a sealed Tetris was $100. Now it’s worth $5,000 to $10,000.”

It isn’t common for retro video game stores to stumble on finds like Goodwill’s NES cartridges but it does happen. A sealed copy of Super Mario Bros. 2 on the NES was sold to Just Press Play over 10 years ago and is now part of Grieg’s personal collection.

While sealed and graded games hold the highest price, many collectors still want to play their games and would rather search for used copies which are generally much more affordable for the average player.

“Video game collecting is great because you can start with the cartridge then go out and find the manual, or you can collect every game your favorite character is in,” Grieg said. “It’s so inclusive. Everyone grew up with this stuff and it’s fun to see it reach the levels it has.”

Radisson Hotel Harrisburg sells for $5.9M, auctioned after defaulting on bank loan

The Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill.

The Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Camp Hill sold for $5.9 million to an undisclosed buyer on Wednesday after a two-day auction.

The 250-room hotel located directly off Highway 15 was listed for auction shortly after former owners Penn Lodge Partners defaulted on a loan from M&T Bank last year.

The Buffalo-New York based bank filed a complaint in Cumberland County Court against the Delaware limited partnership in December, noting that the firm owed the bank over $11 million.

In the December complaint, M&T wrote that Penn Lodge had informed the lender that it had seen a decline in revenue.

“Defendant has advised the lender that the hotel business is suffering substantial cash flow shortages and, as a result thereof, the hotel business operations may cease in the immediate future,” the company wrote in the complaint.

Michael Gallerizzo, a partner at Gebhardt & Smith LLP, a Baltimore, Maryland-based law firm providing counsel to M&T, was unable to comment on the ongoing litigation.

The 45,000-square-foot Radisson Hotel Harrisburg was built in 1964 and sits on 15.88 acres in Camp Hill. The hotel has 30,000 square feet of meeting space and features a business center, a fitness center, a pool, two restaurants, on-site retail and an on-site bar.

The hotel was listed for auction last week by HREC Investment Advisors, a lodging and gaming real estate advisory firm. It was sold for $5.9 million, according to Abc27.

The hotel industry took a massive dive in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, the Radisson had strong top-line revenues, including over $8 million in year-end 2019, according to HREC.

“The hotel had strong pre-COVID revenues, and we believe there is additional revenue and cash flow upside following the completion of a renovation and change in operational strategy,” the real estate firm wrote in the hotel’s listing. “A new owner will have the opportunity to improve the property’s position and capitalize on the hotel’s well-established presence in the market.”

Automobile auction house ADESA Pennsylvania to lay off 43

Automobile auction house ADESA Pennsylvania LLC announced it will lay off 43 employees at its Conewago Township, York County-based facility in early August.

In a WARN Act notice filed with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, ADESA said the layoffs were a response to “COVID-19 related business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable.”

“We did not foresee how significantly and for how long a time the epidemic and related governmental lockdown orders would impact our business,” Marty Nowlin, senior vice president of human resources at ADESA, wrote in the notice.

WARN notices, short for Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, must be filed with the state by any business with more than 100 employees that plans to lay off or furlough workers.

ADESA expects the layoffs to be permanent and will not be offering bumping rights to affected employees, which include clerks, drivers and more.

The layoffs are planned for August 1 and the company has no plans for subsequent layoffs after that date.

Morphy Auctions to take over marketing for international gun show

The Las Vegas Antique Arms Show is one of the biggest events of the year for East Cocalico Township-based Morphy Auctions. The company has acquired a stake in the show’s production company to help sell it to younger collectors. (Photo-Submitted)

A Lancaster County antique auction house has acquired a stake in a popular Las Vegas firearms show with plans for marketing the show to a younger audience.

East Cocalico Township-based Morphy Auctions has sold antique guns at the Las Vegas Antique Arms Show for years.

As part of the deal, Morphy Auctions is buying a stake in California-based Beinfeld Productions and, in turn, will help the company with its marketing. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Morphy sells antique jewelry, toys, automobiles and more. But its focus in recent years has been on the antique gun market.

In 2017 the company acquired James D. Julia Inc., a Maine-based auction house specialized in antique firearm sales. After that, Morphy Auctions decide to put more of its time into gun sales and has since upped its presence in over 80 gun shows annually, according to Dan Morphy, president of Morphy Auctions.

One of them is the Las Vegas show, where Morphy Auctions has more than 20 of its employees making sales on the show floor. The Las Vegas Antique Arms Show attracts buyers and sellers from around the world.

“It’s the one venue where everyone makes a point to be at,” Morphy said.

The Las Vegas show has the added benefit of being a public event, which gives the auction house more exposure; other events are open only to sellers.

Beinfeld Productions did not disclose annual attendance at the three-day show, held in January, but noted that the event draws “thousands and thousands of people.” However, Morphy said, the industry at large is struggling to get younger collectors involved and interested.

“Think about technology, social media, new marketing and advertising strategies,” Morphy said. “If you don’t change with the times, you’ll be left in the dust.”

Morphy Auctions is in the process of creating a marketing plan for the show with a three-person team working on the project. According to Morphy, an in-house marketing team will yield better results than hiring an outside firm.

“I’ve hired three different marketing firms to help my company and none of them helped because they don’t understand the dealer’s mentality,” he said. “We are coming in already understanding the industry and the mentality of the collector and the dealer.”

Sarah Stoltzfus, director of marketing for Morphy Auctions, said marketing plan is expected to reach younger people.

“With the partnership with Morphy Auctions and the expanded reach we will have with the new marketing strategy, I think we will be able to attract new interest in the show and, hopefully, throughout the industry,” Stoltzfus said.

The show is expected to be held next year on February 28, 29 and March 1 due to a scheduling conflict but is planned to return to its usual mid to late January schedule in 2021.

Pa. lawmaker wants to suspend liquor license auctions

A state lawmaker wants to put a stop to state-run liquor license auctions, citing concerns that the process for selling expired restaurant licenses is pushing down prices and interest in private license transfers, especially in rural parts of Pennsylvania where prices tend to be lower already.

“They are manipulating the market,” said Rep. Frank Burns (D-Cambria). “For years the free market has decided the sales between two private businesses. Now they have to compete against a state agency.”

The state auctions began in fall 2016 following the passage of liquor-law reforms under what is known as Act 39. There have been eight auctions so far, with the most recent one wrapping up in late March. Since the process began, winning bid prices have mostly fallen. The first auction saw bids break above $500,000 for a license, but most of the subsequent auctions failed to reach a high of $350,000.

Burns is currently seeking co-sponsors for legislation to suspend the auction process until a commission can be formed to study supply and demand of liquor licenses in each county and the effectiveness of the auctions. He has also sent letters to Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board Chairman Tim Holden and House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody, asking for the auctions to be shelved.

“Why are we cutting the throats of small-business owners across the state?” Burns asked.  “There are counties with an abundance of licenses that have lost population. Those businesses are suffering and the auctions only exacerbate the problem.”

He said licensees in rural areas have little hope of selling their license for a fair-market value when interested buyers know they can simply hold out until the next auction. And under the auction process, bidders don’t have to deal with another business owner or acquire any buildings to use the license.

Burns said he is concerned about an estimated 900 expired licenses that could be auctioned off amid falling auction prices and how those licenses could further undercut small business owners.

“Now is the time to do something,” he said, citing a substantial revenue surplus in the current fiscal year.

The Wolf administration has not yet responded to inquiries about the letter, which was sent by Burns last week. Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokesman Shawn Kelly said the board has taken a “careful approach” in each of the last eight auctions to preserve the short- and long-term value of existing, non-expired licenses while trying to maximize auction revenue to the state.

To date, the auctions have generated $24.2 million, with another $4.2 million in escrow pending license approvals.

“We’ve been careful not to over-saturate the market, evidenced by the declining number of licenses made available in recent auctions and the fact that we’ve only offered about 300 out of an estimated 1,200 available expired licenses,” Kelly said. “In all, about 15 percent of licenses offered have received no bids.”

Kelly also argued that the auctions — in combination with Act 39’s creation of takeout wine permits in Pennsylvania — have created a new market for licenses and boosted their value in certain areas of the state.

“As has historically been the case, demand for licenses varies regionally, a fact reinforced by the range in bids received in each auction,” he said.

Licenses in growing areas such as Cumberland County and suburban Philadelphia, for example, are selling at auction for $350,000 to more than $500,000. Prices are higher in those areas because there are fewer licenses available on the private market.

“If and when the PLCB pursues a ninth license auction, it anticipates announcing the auction and the licenses available the same way it has in the past,” Kelly said.

It’s unclear where the remaining pool of expired licenses is concentrated in Pennsylvania. The board has declined to comment on that list.