004: They warned me not to “go there”
Everyone around me said “No, Cyn! Don’t even think of dissing a competitor.” Well maybe I am and maybe I’m not. First, I don’t see the places I’ve subtly referred to below as competitors, second I’m unnaturally compelled to talk about an issue that just keeps gnawing on my addled brain, and third, it certainly won’t be the first time I’ve bucked good advice from sage colleagues. Besides, my issue isn’t with other establishments nearly as much as it’s yet another observation of regulations without bite.
OK so here’s my “Burns My Buns” issue of the day:
A local, fun, and popular bar was recently closed down until they pony up their taxes. I have no idea why they didn’t pay their $90,000 in taxes…it’s certainly not my business, and I don’t even know the owner’s name, so I have no axe to grind. (Ha! There’s another story I’ll get to some time.)
Closer to home, a downtown restaurant is in bankruptcy court umm why? Because they too did not pay their taxes. (Yet according to public record, the business did manage to squeeze out some mortgage payments for their personal homes.)
And yet a third restaurant closed its doors for a variety of reasons, including massive overdue taxes (sensing a theme here folks?) but the owner was allowed to pop open a different concept in a different location, even though the first place hadn’t made good on their $80,000 tax bill.
These are taxes they already collected from customers and employees. So in addition to the state and city not getting desperately needed funds, in essence it’s also a slap in the face to you and me. The owners kept the sales taxes we patrons paid, and also kept their paws on the payroll taxes yanked out of their employees’ checks. (Still haven’t scared you away? Continued below…)
Click here to join the Hell’s Kitchen Facebook Page
To add insult to injury, at least one of those businesses went on the dreaded “liquor list” which is a huge black X on their account…by law, anyone with a liquor license must go through approved wholesalers such as Johnson Brothers. Before the wholesaler is allowed to make a delivery, it has to check the daily “blacklist” and if you’re on it, you’re toast til you’re paid in full.
The laws are tight: It’s fairly easy to get “listed” and just as easy to get off. (Our Duluth location was listed once because I had lost a liquor invoice and was unaware we were even in trouble til the vendor called.) The nano-second I paid it, we got back in the state’s good graces.
Ah! But can’t a “listed” place just sneak over to Costco to buy booze or beer? Nope, that’s completely illegal, which is the burn my buns part: The above-mentioned bar managed to sneak in illegal liquor purchases for over six months, collect tens of thousands of dollars in more sales and taxes, and got slapped with a silly $200 fine…and then got spanked with a second $400 fine. Huh? Let me repeat: blacklisted, they still managed to get their paws on more booze, rake in tens of thousands of dollars in sales, take even more taxes out of customer and employee pockets, and then get hit with a measly $600 in fines?
Jeeeeeezus, I’m a huge believer in second (and third) chances, but not til the first fuckup’s been cleared up. I’m not taking a “holier than thou” position; I’m just saying something’s seriously broken.