Messenger: Family wages fight against bank that took its business, home | Tony Messenger

Jerry and Maria Berhorst are a St. Louis success story.

Married for 14 years, the two 49-year-olds came from blue-collar backgrounds.

Maria graduated from the now defunct Rosary High School in Spanish Lake; Jerry from St. Dominic’s in O’Fallon. When they met she worked at a hair and nail salon and he managed a big box store.

They worked and they saved.

Eventually, they decided they wanted to invest in their own company.

In November 2013, they signed papers on a more than $900,000 loan with People’s Bank & Trust of Troy to open their business. The Tap Restaurant and Brewery on Elm Street in St. Charles was born. It opened March 17, 2014.

The early days were good.

“It was unbelievable,” Jerry remembers.

The happy days didn’t last, though.

It wasn’t that St. Charles wasn’t ready for the brewery. Business was booming, the Berhorsts said. They made their loan payments and invested in the business, even if they weren’t paying themselves a salary.

But about a year after opening, their banker paid them a visit.

Here’s how the court records describe that day.

“On Monday, March 16, 2015, John Armstrong … of Peoples came to the Tap Property during lunchtime, unannounced, in order to have Berhorsts execute the modified” notes. “Peoples … represented that the new documents … were to secure an SBA loan … The representations of Peoples were false.”

That there are court documents involving the Berhorsts and their bank indicates this relationship ended badly. Indeed, on that March 2015 day, the Berhorsts signed new loan documents.

“We trusted our banker,” Berhorst says. “Six months later, he starts calling and asking when we were going to refinance.”

It turns out that the documents the Berhorsts signed transformed their 21-year loan into two loans with 12-month maturity dates. By November, the banker was threatening to foreclose on the property, even though the Berhorsts had never missed a payment.

“We had four days to come up with $1 million,” Jerry says.

Instead, they closed the restaurant. Peoples Bank foreclosed on the restaurant. Then the bank went after the Berhorsts’ house.

This month, the Berhorsts fought back.

They filed a counter claim against the bank, trying to keep their house and accusing the bank of fraud.

Joseph Trad, the attorney for Peoples Bank, declined comment.

The Berhorsts, on the other hand, have taken their comment to the streets. Over the past couple of months, Jerry could occasionally be seen picketing outside the bank, waving a U.S. flag while telling anybody he could talk to that the bank defrauded him. He took to Facebook to make similar allegations, such as the day he closed, when he wrote: “We have a corrupt bank. More to come.”

The Berhorsts,…

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