One month after it granted three restaurants liquor-victualing license extensions even though they owed town or state taxes, the Town Council gave two of those restaurants – Norman's and Rok Bar – another two-week extension, to Jan. 27, and renewed the third – Bistro 9.
Norman's Tap & Lounge, 159 Main St., owes more than $26,000 in sewer fees dating back to 2010 and around $10,000 in property taxes.
In December, Rok Bar had owed “around $6,000” in sales taxes to the state. During the panel's regular meeting Monday night, Town Council President Michael Isaacs said, "There's some amount in dispute apparently … but we know he has made a payment," referring to owner Brandon Sweet.
Sharon Hazard, representing her father Norman Harris, who owns the Norman's, told council members papers had been put in Monday morning for a home equity loan. She said the family owns properties outright (no mortgage). The plan, Hazard said, is to use the money from the home equity loan to pay off the debt to the town in a lump sum.
Councilman Mark Gee wasn't having it. As he has stated in previous meetings, Gee said he didn't think it was fair to the townspeople and the other business owners to allow one or two businesses to get extra help.
"Is it the government's business to make special exemptions for one or two individual businesses?" Gee said. "Over a period of three years, or four years, we haven't had any effort to honor your responsibility.... To me it's almost a little abusive to the town."
Council President Isaacs, however, suggested the council be flexible.
"I think there's light at the end of the tunnel. We should exhibit some flexibility on this. I think they do need some time to work this out," he said. "... I don't think we'll be in this situation again, given what the clerk's office and the finance office have put in place."
Councilman Jeff Cianciolo said he was willing to give Norman's more time, in light of the loan.
"What you've described in my mind is enough to give you two weeks," he told Hazard. Still, he wanted Hazard to be able to show the council that the Harris properties are indeed free of debt, since the home equity loan would not be settled for six to eight weeks, by Hazard's estimate.
"I'd like to see some evidence that these properties are indeed unencumbered," said Cianciolo. He asked that Hazard have a title search done that she could share with the prospective lender, rather than wait for the lender to complete its own title search.
Hazard agreed to provide that information at the meeting Jan. 27. The council voted 4-1 in favor of the extension, with Gee voting against the extension.
Gee took the same stand with regard to Rok Bar. That vote was 3-2 in favor of the extention, with Gee and Cianciolo casting the dissenting votes.
"Rok Bar apparently still has outstanding tax obligations to the State and offered no explanation as to when or how the obligations would be satisfied," said Cianciolo Tuesday.
Bistro 9 was also granted an extension in December because the state had not yet sent notification the restaurant had paid its sales tax. That notification has since been received, Town Clerk Leigh Botello told the council Monday. The council voted 5-0 to renew Bistro 9's alcohol-victualing license.