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Saturday, July 20, 2024
Saturday July 20, 2024
Saturday July 20, 2024

Restaurant owner’s nightmare: $68,000 fee leaves regret looming over Virginia eatery

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Businessman faces financial crunch after overlooking amnesty program during pandemic closure

In a tale of unexpected financial woes, Kevin Grubbs, the owner of Latitude Seafood Co. in Richmond, Virginia, finds himself grappling with regret after a seemingly innocent mistake snowballed into a staggering $68,000 fee.

Opening his restaurant at Stony Point Fashion Park in 2018, Grubbs dutifully paid around $28,000 per month in meals tax payments to the city. However, a March 2020 payment delay, prompted by the pandemic-induced closure of his restaurant, set off a chain of events that would lead to a significant financial burden.

Image by jcomp on Freepik

The city introduced an amnesty program, offering to waive interest and penalties on specific meal taxes between March and June 2020. Unfortunately, Grubbs, unaware of the program’s requirements, sent the March 2020 payment during the waiver period but failed to apply for amnesty, resulting in an $800 late fee.

Claiming he was never notified of this fee, Grubbs continued regular payments, oblivious to the city’s imposition of a 10 percent monthly penalty for the outstanding March 2020 payment. The shock hit him in November 2022 when he received a notice, describing it as a ‘courtesy,’ indicating he owed $41,000.

Filing an appeal with the Finance Department, Grubbs faced a year-long investigation that concluded on December 1, 2023, with the denial of his appeal. Finance Director Sheila White asserted that taxpayers have a duty to investigate and pay taxes, rejecting Grubbs’ plea.

The subsequent payment of $68,000 left Grubbs distressed, describing the situation as “completely immoral.” He questioned the city’s trustworthiness and expressed reluctance to do business in Richmond again.

Councilman Andreas Addison hopes to enhance communication between the city and businesses, acknowledging the need to support their success. City spokesperson Petula Burks emphasized business owners’ responsibility to be aware of their tax obligations and suggested the city’s willingness to work on payment plans.

Grubbs, now advocating for systemic change, plans to challenge the city in circuit court over the late fees, proposing a law that mandates clear notices for accruing late fees.

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