It survived a yearlong, $1 million renovation just to open its doors in 2016 and then recovered from a lightning-caused structure fire in 2018. Now Steamer Seafood, located in the historic Mariah Moore house that dates to the 1820s, might fall victim to a heavy load of debt.
The Steamer building at 801 State St. and the personal property and equipment used in connection with the restaurant will be offered to the highest bidder at a master commissioner’s sale Tuesday at the Warren County Justice Center.
The sale arises out of a Warren Circuit Court judgment in August in favor of Invision Flooring Systems against Steamer Seafood and third-party defendant Franklin Bank and Trust. That judgment indicates that Steamer Seafood and restaurant owner Dale Augenstein defaulted on payment on a number of loans, causing the case to be referred to Master Commissioner David Broderick.
Master Commissioner’s office records indicate that Steamer has six debts totaling more than $2.8 million. An appraisal of the Steamer building values it at $1.15 million. No value was placed on the furnishings and equipment.
“This is a judicial sale as opposed to a public auction,” Broderick explained. “All proceeds will go to satisfy the lender’s claim.”
Broderick holds master commissioner’s sales each month and said, “Sometimes we have only four or five people show up. But I would be surprised if we didn’t have a good turnout for this because of the historic significance of the building.”
Nearly 200 years old, the building was operated for several years by restaurateur Rick Kelley as Mariah’s restaurant. Mariah’s, now owned by developer Jerry Katzoff, is now in Stadium Park Plaza next to Bowling Green Ballpark.
Augenstein, a 1981 Western Kentucky University graduate and former WKU Alumni Association National Board of Directors president, bought the Mariah Moore house in 2015 and transformed it into a Steamer restaurant similar to one he operated in Hilton Head, S.C.
A big WKU benefactor, Augenstein provided the $1 million lead gift in 2010 that led to construction of the Augenstein Alumni Center on the WKU campus.
The Owensboro native spent much of 2015 and part of 2016 overseeing an extensive renovation of the Mariah’s building. At the time, he told the Daily News he was investing some $1 million on the two-story, 12,000-square-foot structure that was built to seat up to 300 patrons.
At its one-year anniversary celebration, Augenstein said Steamer had served nearly 200,000 people in its first year.
Augenstein was not available for comment Tuesday. Larry Hinton, the attorney representing Franklin Bank and Trust, declined to comment about the sale.
The building and the personal property are listed as separate items on the master commissioner’s website. They are two of eight items on the agenda for the sale, which will begin at 5 p.m.
According to master commissioner’s office documents, chairs, tables, upholstered bar stools, a copper fish sculpture and some lights, benches and doors are not included in the personal items to be auctioned.
More information about the sale can be found at the warrencountymastercommissioner.com website.