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Why Underground Butcher Went Belly-Up

December 3, 2019

There has been chatter around the city about the state of affairs in the life and times of Jonny Hunter, co-founder and public face of Underground Food Collective.  Within the past days, it was announced publically that the local shop, Underground Butcher, was finally going to close.  It had been rumored, but one could hope it was nothing more than that.  But after the closing of Forequarter a couple months ago, there seemed to be far more to the story, or as they say in a newsroom, what was happening seemed to have legs.

And now we know there was more, sadly, lots more.  Isthmus has one of those must-reads for Madisonians. 

Hunter is currently a defendant in several lawsuits involving the Underground Food Collective — a vernacular, umbrella name that encompasses several LLCs, including Underground Catering LLC, Badger Meats LLC, Middlewest Restaurant LLC and Underground Kitchen and Delicatessen LLC.

  • In October, the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development filed claims in Dane County Circuit Court against Hunter for unpaid unemployment taxes totaling $10,718.
  • The Department of Revenue has filed warrants for unpaid taxes, also in circuit court, amounting to $59,795 against Underground Catering LLC dating back to August 2018.
  • Brothers Ben and Matt Feifarek, investors in Hunter’s never-launched restaurant Middlewest, 809 Williamson St., and Underground Meats, filed a lawsuit in September in Dane County Circuit Court against Hunter, Underground Meats LLC and Middlewest Restaurant LLC, over their $175,000 investment, alleging financial mismanagement and misrepresentation.
  • Premier Proteins, a supplier of high-end beef and pork in Kearney, Missouri, is suing Hunter and Underground Catering over unpaid bills for product amounting to $43,650.
  • Working Draft Beer Company, 1129 E. Wilson St., is suing Hunter in Dane County Circuit Court for breach of contract in a dispute over the lease for Working Draft. Hunter, who himself leases the building from S-K Investment Co., sublets part of the space to Working Draft. According to the lawsuit complaint, the dispute centers on access to shared utilities, intent to build a patio, use of parking spaces, and an increase in rent, among other items. Working Draft also alleges that Hunter is keeping kitchen equipment paid for by, and intended for, Working Draft. Hunter, in turn, is trying to evict Working Draft from its space

Starting an adventure like Hunter undertook is not easy.  But, there is never any way to make numbers bend, even when a dream is attached to the outcome.  So I feel sorry for Hunter, and wish him the best in his next pursuits.  I am sure there will be more business ventures ahead for this man.  Lessons learned will turn into an asset.  That truism is one thing that can be banked for the years to come.

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