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Champion Hospitality still paying off vendors after 'challenging 2022'

After a rocky 2022 that saw Champion Hospitality Group shrink its business operations, the Charlottesville-based business says it still owes money to vendors.

“Champion has been working diligently with vendors to settle any issues that resulted from a challenging 2022,” spokeswoman Marijean Oldham said in an email to The Daily Progress.

Oldham did not say how much the company owes and who is still waiting on a check, but she did say that Champion’s remaining businesses are open and that the company even intends to expand existing restaurant operations on the Downtown Mall despite standing in arears with more than one vendor.

Champion Hospitality Group is the parent company of several businesses including its flagship bar and restaurant Champion Brewing Company, the Franco-Belgian restaurant Brasserie Saison and the Latin-inspired eatery Passiflora, all three in downtown Charlottesville. Champion Hospitality Group is also a partner with Siren, a Mediterranean seafood restaurant in downtown Charlottesville, and Champion Ice House, a bar and restaurant in Gordonsville.

It’s a large footprint, but it used to be larger.

Last year, Champion Hospitality shut down both the Champion Grill in the Shops at Stonefield north of Charlottesville, the Champion outpost in Lynchburg and Reason Beer in Seminole Place shopping center north of Charlottesville, whose operations merged with Champion’s in late 2021.

There were 16 people laid off as a result of the closures “all together,” according to Oldham, who added that “the overhead at Stonefield,” in particular, made it difficult for the business to turn a profit.

“Like many businesses, we were counting on 2022 being a return to pre-pandemic levels of traffic and revenues, and instead we had yet another year of unprecedented challenges in both the hospitality and brewing industries,” CEO Hunter Smith said in a statement dated Thursday. “These challenges in concert with other factors led to a few closures in the past year, and with those closures, we lost some positions and great people.”

There are still 60 people employed today under the Champion Hospitality umbrella, the company said, and it is looking to hire more.

Also, the company is looking to expand more than just its staff. Smith, whose family also owns Afton Mountain Vineyards in Nelson County, said he is planning to expand and renovate his Brasserie Saison and Passiflora operations on Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall.

More news is expected in “weeks to come,” Smith said.

“While we’re imperfect, we have always aimed to do right by our team members and the city that has supported us,” Smith said. “The Champion legacy is a stalwart and deep-rooted one that we are eager to continue as we strive for constant improvement.”


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