Late last week, Bessie Burger and two Subway franchises in Clinton were seized by the N.C. Department of Revenue for nonpayment of taxes. As of Tuesday afternoon, the tax bill was still listed as outstanding and the frequented restaurants were still dark and closed to the public.
The same North Carolina Department of Revenue notice was left on the doors to each of the local businesses on Thursday. Those notices read, in both English and Spanish, “No trespassing!! Pursuant to NC G.S. 105-242(a)(2) the personal property here within has been seized for nonpayment of taxes.”
A search of Sampson County tax records revealed that $38,000 in taxes is outstanding for the Northeast Boulevard (U.S. 701 Business) property owned by Granny Scott LLC, which encompasses one of the Subways and Bessie Burger at opposite ends of the same freestanding building.
That payment was initially due Sept. 1, 2016. The outstanding $37,251.63 bill had $745.04 in interest already tacked on. As of Tuesday evening, despite some rumblings that the businesses could be reopened to the public by mid-week, records showed the bill was still unpaid.
County tax records show that interest payments and nominal fees have been assessed every year since 2010 for the property on the Northeast Boulevard. In total, $13,270.74 in interest payments and fees have had to be paid in addition to the base tax bill over that time, including close to $7,000 in penalties for 2014 and $1,865 in 2015.
The property, known as Clinton Plaza Shopping Center, is owned by Robert Scott. Frank Brinkley owns and operates the Bessie Burger and Subway franchises. Messages left for Brinkley were not returned. Scott could not be reached for comment.
The franchises moved into a newly-constructed standalone building off U.S. 701 Business (Northeast Boulevard) within about a year of each other in 2010 and 2011. The shopping center lost Family Dollar and NAPA Auto Care Center years back, with Southern Tire & Auto Inc. and Ted’s Steakhouse currently the only businesses in the back portion of the Clinton Plaza Shopping Center.
Several businesses located in between the Subway and Bessie Burger have fizzled over the years, the most recent being White Swan, which closed not long after it opened in September 2013.
The posted notices on the Northeast Boulevard businesses warned that unauthorized entry was prohibited. Questions regarding the businesses were directed to Levy Officer Sabra Tyndall.
When reached at her office, Tyndall confirmed that notices were posted at the two Subways in Clinton — the other is within Shamrock Plaza off Sunset Avenue — as well as a location in Warsaw, in addition to the notice at Bessie Burger.
The N.C. General Statute referred to in the notice pertains to “Warrants for collection of taxes; garnishment and attachment; certificate or judgment for taxes.” Regarding in particular “levy and sales,” the statute notes that “if a taxpayer does not pay a tax within 30 days after it is collectible under G.S. 105-241.22, the secretary may take” certain actions. It details two of those actions.
In the case of the Subways and Bessie Burger, a warrant was issued to a revenue officer of the Department charged with the duty to collect taxes, commanding the officer to levy upon and sell the taxpayer’s personal property found within the state for the payment of the tax.
City manager Shawn Purvis said he was aware that the Clinton businesses had been closed. It is common, he said, for the N.C. Department of Revenue, along with other state departments such as the Department of Social Services, to notify local governments and law enforcement when various notices are being posted. That notice, however, can come a day before or sometimes when levy officers are en route to a location.
“They might say ‘meet us there,’” said Purvis of law enforcement escorts. He noted that is the extent of the local government’s involvement, saying the City of Clinton does not get in the middle of such business matters. “We don’t even know about it until it’s happening and we don’t have anything to do with discussions afterward.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.