Bessie Burger in Clinton reopened Wednesday and the local Subway franchises could soon follow, the owner of the restaurants said Wednesday morning after his businesses were seized last week due to nonpayment of taxes.
Frank Brinkley, who owns and operates the Bessie Burger and two Subway franchises in Clinton, conceded that he was doing what he could at this point to get the businesses back open. In addition to the three local franchises, a Subway location in Warsaw was also seized. He said Wednesday morning that he expected to get the keys to Bessie Burger Wednesday afternoon and hoped to open up the burger joint that evening in time for “Wing Day.”
A bright yellow sign taped to the front window by early Wednesday afternoon stated “We will reopen at 4 p.m. today.”
Even as employees worked inside Bessie Burger to prep for dinner service, the Subway just a few hundred feet away was still closed. Brinkley said it was an unfortunate incident, one he hopes does not keep customers away.
“I’m doing the best I can — it is what it is,” said Brinkley. “The community has been great to me and I don’t want this to keep them away. I love this community. That’s why I chose to come here in the first place. It worries me that people will hesitate to come back because they lost trust in me. That’s what scares me. I hope that’s not the case.”
Notices were placed on the doors to the three Clinton restaurants last Thursday — Bessie Burger and one of the Subways are located on opposite ends of the same freestanding building on Northeast Boulevard, the other Subway is at Shamrock Plaza on Sunset Avenue — that they had been seized by the N.C. Department of Revenue for nonpayment of taxes. As of Wednesday, the tax bill was still listed as outstanding.
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.” The notices warned that unauthorized entry was prohibited.
A search of Sampson County tax records revealed that $38,000 in taxes and penalties is outstanding for the Northeast Boulevard (U.S. 701 Business) property owned by Granny Scott LLC. That payment was initially due Sept. 1, 2016. The outstanding $37,251.63 bill had $745.04 in interest already tacked on. While the businesses stayed dark through the weekend, by early this week there were rumblings that the businesses could be reopened in a matter of days.
Brinkley said that is the plan, at least for Bessie Burger. If he does not have the keys to the Subways by Thursday, they may not reopen until Monday. He has to ensure the restaurants have food that is up to date and can be cooked and served, and that will likely involve making a new order. The Health Department will also visit each of the businesses that are reopening, Brinkley noted.
“I am going to do my best to open up Bessie Burger at 4 or 5 p.m. today,” he said early Wednesday. “I have a 50/50 partnership with the Subways so that’s been the hold up there.”
That partnership is with Robert Scott, who owns the Northeast Boulevard property, known as Clinton Plaza Shopping Center. The Subway and Bessie Burger 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. Tax records showed that, since that time, the annual tax bill has regularly accrued interest and fees each year, ranging from $500 to nearly $7,000.
On Wednesday, Brinkley made no excuses for the tax problem and said he is doing everything he can to resolve the situation and regain the trust of his loyal customers.
“I didn’t want to hurt the community, but I have by not paying my taxes — but I am getting that rectified,” said Brinkley, noting that his workers have not been left in the cold. “The employees have all been paid. That’s not an issue.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.