Former Colts player, Stacked Pickle owner Gary Brackett files for bankruptcy

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Gary Brackett (IBJ file photo)

Former Indianapolis Colts linebacker and restaurateur Gary Brackett, who shut down his Stacked Pickle sports-bar chain in May 2020, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

Brackett, 41, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection Friday afternoon in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of Indiana. In the filing, Brackett lists $2 million in assets and $5.8 million in liabilities, most of those unsecured business debts.

“You could say, ‘Another NFL player went bankrupt,’ and that’s true. But it wasn’t because of a lavish lifestyle,” Brackett told IBJ on Sunday.

Most of Brackett’s listed assets are tied to his NFL career. He played for the Colts his entire pro career—from 2003 through 2011—and was a starter in the team’s victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI in 2007.

In his bankruptcy filing, Brackett’s personal assets include a $1 million NFL player’s retirement account, two separate NFL annuities worth a combined $798,100 and an NFL health reimbursement account worth $106,749. He also lists a Super Bowl championship ring valued at $12,000 and an AFC championship ring worth $3,000, among other personal assets.

Listed liabilities include $3.9 million in business loans from Huntington National Bank and nearly $1.5 million in potential liabilities associated with two pending lawsuits.

Landlord Scott Rand Co. LLC of Dayton, Ohio, filed suit against Brackett in Montgomery County, Ohio, in January. In its suit, Scott Rand alleges that Brackett owes $1.3 million in unpaid rent and expenses for Stacked Pickle’s Miamisburg, Ohio, location.

And in July, landlord Metropolis Lifestyle Center LLC sued Brackett and his estranged wife, Ragan Brackett, over the Stacked Pickle that had operated in the Shops at Perry Crossing center in Plainfield. In the suit, filed in Hamilton County, Metropolis alleges it’s owed $182,361 in unpaid rent and expenses.

Brackett and his wife are in the process of getting divorced.

The bankruptcy filing also lists a $312,555 debt in the form of a promissory note to Chris Long, the former owner of Stacked Pickle. Long founded the restaurant company and Brackett became a partner in the business, later buying out Long’s interest in 2014.

The Stacked Pickles were owned by Brackett Restaurant Group LLC, which also operated two restaurants at 14 E. Washington St. in downtown Indianapolis. A bar and restaurant called CharBlue Steak and Seafood operated there from late 2016 to June 2019. Prior to CharBlue, Brackett operated Georgia Reese’s Southern Table and Bar at the site for about 18 months.

After the pandemic put a pause on both sporting events and dine-in restaurant service last year, Brackett said he was forced to close all 10 of his Stacked Pickle locations in Indiana and Ohio.

“We were bleeding money,” Brackett said. “All the sports were canceled, and we’re a sports bar.”

Brackett said he knew when he closed Stacked Pickle that he would have to file for bankruptcy, but it’s taken until now to get everything in order and actually file.

“It’s just so overwhelming in terms of time and energy,” he said.

Before the pandemic hit, Brackett had also been working to raise money for a feature-length movie about his life’s struggles and successes. He formed Brackett Productions for that purpose in May 2017.

In January 2020, Brackett launched a crowdfunding campaign to help raise part of the estimated $2.2 million to $2.5 million cost of making the film. At that point, he had already invested $150,000 of his own money into the project and had secured a script, a website, a director, a fellow executive producer, a promotional trailer and a short version of the film designed to spur investor interest in the project.

Those plans, too, have been scuttled, although Brackett said he still dreams of someday making that movie.

Looking ahead, Brackett said he has no plans to re-enter the restaurant business.

“I can think of much easier ways to make a living with some other products and services,” he said.

Brackett also does motivational speaking and business coaching through his company GLB 1 LLC, which he established in 2011 and is now his main source of income.

Brackett acknowledged that some potential clients might be turned off by the fact that he’s filed for bankruptcy. But he also believes that the things he’s learned since leaving the NFL are of value to small business owners.

“Sure, I’m upset [about the bankruptcy],” Brackett said. “But sometimes you’re given something so that you can prove to others that you can get through it and it can be survived.”

After retiring from football, Brackett went on to earn an MBA from George Washington University in 2013. And before the pandemic hit, Brackett said he had achieved some significant milestones with Stacked Pickle. At its height, the company employed 400 people, and Brackett had already signed deals with seven Stacked Pickle franchisees, with another 10 franchisees in the pipeline.

Brackett said he has since sold the Stacked Pickle trademark and franchising rights to one of those franchisees, who opened a Stacked Pickle location in Houston in June.

It’s not uncommon for professional football players to encounter financial difficulties after they retire from the sport.

In 2015, the National Bureau of Economic Research examined data on all players drafted by the NFL between 1996 and 2003. The study found that 15.7% of former NFL players had filed for bankruptcy protection within the 12 years following retirement.

Brackett said he’s never been a person who defined himself by his financial status, and said he did not engage in the type of extravagant personal spending that has tripped up some other retired athletes.

“I’ve always shopped at Kohl’s and Target,” he said.

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17 thoughts on “Former Colts player, Stacked Pickle owner Gary Brackett files for bankruptcy

  1. I love me some Gary Brackett. Love that he wants to invest back into the city. With that being said, I never had a great experience at Stacked Pickle.

    1. This. We also wanted to like the place but never had a good meal there. Same with Scotty’s Brewhouse…

    2. We really liked Scotty’s until Scott Wise sold out. It was obvious from Day 1 of new ownership they cared less about the customer than $$$.

      Stacked Pickle was “okay” at best, then went downhill. I give Gary Brackett all the kudos in the world for getting an MBA and making a go of it in the restaurant biz, which is difficult no matter the situation. Also credit him for his humility and determination going forward from here.

  2. He may live an extravagant lifestyle but he tried to grow this business too fast. This had a detrimental impact on the quality of the food and the service. The two locations I visited started out well but the service and food became unbearable and forced me away. Perhaps some future restaurateurs will see this story and learn.

  3. Restaurants and bars, really tough businesses even for those with a depth of experience in them and Covid even made them that much more difficult. #1 and # 2 in bankruptcy filings. Tough business to invest in. Wish Gary Brackett much luck in his comeback.

  4. The pandemic had nothing to do with his demise… that place was a over years ago. Gary is a nice guy but a bad business man. I agree with Michael, he tried to expand too fast. He also had bad partners, anyone in the business knows JH and JS and their reputation is anything but good. I wish him the best of luck finding something more stable for his future.

  5. GB does seem to be a good guy. I always had good experience at the Greenwood Pickle. I partially blame the NFL for not having enough financial education programs for these guys. Thank God for the NFL pension many of them qualify for otherwise many more would be working at a warehouse job till they die. The ESPN 60 for 60 put the number of bankruptcy up to 90% a few years ago. I think the 15.7% number in this article was way low. Good Luck Gary.

  6. No hate for GB and I applaud his efforts, but as many have pointed out, this had zero to do with Covid. It makes for a nice cover story, but the Pickle was deadman walking and this just ended it quickly. I tried and wanted to like them, but they were just a less than average strip center bar. Service issues, food and drink quality, just vanilla.

    1. He tried to do too much, at least at the W 86th location. His menu was impossible to keep fresh without a lot of waste

  7. I facetiously told his waitress a long time ago at his Westfield location: “What???? no malt vinegar for fish and chips, you won’t last long without the malt vinegar.

  8. Don’t have much to add other than a bad team will smooth talk you out of a few million bucks! You’re left with the bills, leases, and FFE worth a dime on the dollar. Please read my book.