Auction turns restaurant assets into cash

State auctions restaurant items for unpaid taxes

Auctioneer Buster Cattles, left, was at work in the Crystal Cafe, on Main Street in downtown Grand Junction during a tax auction at the cafe.

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Harley Rudofsky sifted through the past and mused about the future Monday as the Crystal Cafe’s inventory went to the highest bidders at auction.

Rudofsky owns the building but not the restaurant. He pointed out two pots that belonged to his mother and a credenza that was his brother’s among the auction items, a portion of which still had food stuck to them.

“It’s overwhelming,” he said of the auction, conducted by the state Monday morning so
it could collect $5,697.02 in back sales and withholding taxes and about $1,300 in unpaid sales tax due the city of Grand Junction.

The owner of the restaurant, Randy Belanger, did not come to the auction. The items auctioned belonged to him.

All furniture, fixtures and food will be gone by 5 p.m. today. Then Rudofsky will decide who will move into the building next. He has three potential lessees interested in the location along Main Street downtown.

Brian Holman, a tax enforcement officer with the city, said the state seizes businesses about once every six weeks in Grand Junction. Those seizures lead to auctions once every two months, he estimated.

Lynn Hood, a supervisory agent with the Colorado Department of Revenue, said the state seizes businesses when an account agent “feels collection of taxes is in danger.”

He said the rough economy has not led to more seizures, but it has resulted in more communication with businesses.

When sales and withholding taxes are not paid, it’s because the business did not forward tax money to the state, not because the business did not have the money, Hood said. Customers paid an extra 7.65 percent on the dollar when they bought meals at the Crystal Cafe, with the understanding the restaurant would forward the extra money to the state, but the business kept the money. Employees also had a certain percentage of their paychecks withheld by the cafe, believing the cafe would send that amount to the state for payment of their state income taxes. Instead, the business kept the money, Hood said.

Auctioneer Buster Cattles said people shouldn’t feel guilty about the auction.

“I don’t want anyone saying ‘poor people’ — they had the money,” Cattles said.

The day started with a request for a $21,000 bid for everything in the building. Then each item went to bid individually to see whether sales could exceed that amount.

Money that might be left over once the state and then the city are paid will be disbursed to any landlord, employee or someone with any other lien who may seek a piece of what’s left, as determined by a district court judge.


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