Subscribe for 99¢
senn bierwerks

A rendering of Senn Bierwerks, which was originally slated to open in 2017. Handout photo.

University City can buy back the land for a failed brewery development at the same price it was sold to a developer, St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Nancy Watkins McLaughlin ruled Tuesday.

University City has been fighting in court with developer Tim O’Donnell since a plan to build a brewery known as Senn Bierwerks fell apart in 2017. The municipality had sold the 2 acres on Olive Boulevard — which it had spent years and $860,000 assembling — to O’Donnell for $100,000 in 2016. The city issued a request for proposals to develop the site and said the below-market price was justified because of the economic development potential.

But when University City sought to repurchase the property, it discovered the contract it had executed did not contain a buyback clause despite the City Council’s directions to its staff and lawyers to include one. O’Donnell said he had another offer on the land and asked for nearly $1 million from the city to repurchase it.

The judge ruled that the “outline of terms authorized in writing by the city council differs from the terms of the agreement” and that state law recognizes that the public “should be protected from the unauthorized actions of their agents.”

Robert Devereux, a lawyer at Clayton-based Danna McKitrick representing O’Donnell, said the contracts had been prepared by University City’s lawyer, and future parties “will not be able to rely on the contracts and the documentation performed by counsel for the municipality.” Asked whether his client would appeal, he said his client is considering next steps.

Editor's note: Nancy Watkins McLaughlin is a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge. A previous version of this article was incorrect. 

Business Briefing e-newsletter

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Jacob Barker is a business reporter for the Post-Dispatch. 314-340-8291