Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 7:51 PM
SULPHUR — The City Council on Tuesday allowed two bars on U.S. 90 and a restaurant on Ruth Street to keep their liquor licenses, but warned them not to appear before the panel again.
Handlebars Club, Crickets, Club Chaotic and Johnny T’s BBQ were on the agenda to have their licenses revoked due to unpaid taxes.
Mayor Chris Duncan said the parish sales tax office tells the city about businesses that aren’t up to date on taxes and that the city asks them to appear before the council. He said that, on average, delinquent businesses are two months behind in taxes.
“Part of having a liquor license is keeping up (with taxes),” he said. “We address the owner and let them know that we don’t take this lightly.”
Duncan said the issue with Handlebars Club was ownership. Brenda Chesson, owner, said she now has complete ownership after buying out a partner’s share and that her taxes were up to date by Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. meeting.
“In my defense I wasn’t aware that there was a problem because the mail was sent to the wrong address,” she said. “(Tuesday) I went and picked up a piece of paper that said I did what I was supposed to do and changed the address for it to come to me. The ball was not dropped on my part. I couldn’t take care of the problem if I didn’t know it existed. The ball was dropped inside the tax office part.”
Councilman Mike Koonce moved to revoke Chesson’s liquor license, but he was unable to garner the council’s support. Chesson gave “girl scout’s honor” that the council wouldn’t see her again for unpaid taxes.
No action was taken by the council on revoking Cricket’s liquor license because the establishment closed Oct. 1 and turned its license in to the city.
Duncan said the bar can’t reopen until it reapplies for a license and is approved.
Lisa Dinger, owner of Club Chaotic, was allowed to keep her license after providing the council with paperwork showing that she was up to date on her taxes.
John Hopper, owner of Johnny T’s BBQ, told the council that financial hardships kept him from being able to keep his taxes current.
“We’ve had many problems with Johnny T’s starting out — tremendous costs, overruns, tremendous maintenance on the building,” he said.
“We’ve had operational problems, which has created loss after loss after loss. We are on our fifth management person, and we do have a very good manager there now and I think it’s something we can build on.”
The council gave Hopper until its next meeting, Nov. 13, to be up to date on his taxes. Duncan said Hopper’s situation is “crucial.”
“He cannot renew his liquor license in January unless he is completely current and has a sales tax clearance,” he said. “That is part of renewing for us and the state. It’s important for these businesses to be in order.”
Duncan said the city can revoke its part of the liquor license and ask the state do the same.
“After we revoke the city’s portion then we send it to the state,” he said. “People don’t realize that if we revoke your liquor license, then you cannot get a liquor license by state statute for a period of time in the state.”
He said that when the council grants businesses a liquor license they “stress the importance of sales tax and keeping everything up.”
“We are cracking down to make sure all our bars and establishments are following the rules,” Duncan said. “If we see these people more than once, we know it’s a problem. And hopefully this got their attention to get their business together.”