Public Attention Bodes Well for East LA Eatery
Community support steps up to support family business on the verge of closing.
By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer
Things are looking up for a restaurateur who was almost forced to close his doors after the weight of debt and the state tax collector’s “heavy hand” almost crushed his family business.
A.J.’s B.B.Q Pit owner Jim Roman met June 2 with a California State Board of Equalization (BOE) liaison and supervisor to discuss his tax situation. An aide to Senator Ron Calderon, who assisted in setting up the meeting, was also present.
“I walked out feeling a very large weight was off my back. I felt like they listened, it was good,” Jim Roman told EGP following the meeting with the BOE where he was finally able to reach a written agreement on a plan to pay off his outstanding sales tax bill.
In search of help, Roman had reached out to local elected officials, the taxpayer advocate and EGP, which detailed his plight in a May 26 article. Because of the news report, a lot of businesses and community members stepped forward to provide moral support and to support his business, Roman told EGP on Monday.
“I know, without a doubt, that I would not have had a written agreement if I had not sought the help that I did,” Roman said.
The BOE had previously denied Roman’s request for a written installment plan because they had already revoked his business permit.
When Roman contacted EGP last month, he said he felt the BOE’s “strong arm” tactics were going to force him out of business. Jose Gonzalez, an East LA Works’ business consultant assisting Roman, said BOE was unsympathetic to the restaurant owner’s plight.
In addition to revoking his business permit, the local tax board office also put a lien on his credit card sales and sent a Sheriff’s deputy with a warrant, or a “keeper,” to sit in his restaurant and collect all his sales for the day.
Roman said those actions left him without cash or credit card revenue to run his restaurant so he could pay off his tax liability, which he said continued to grow as the BOE added on penalties and $300 a day for the “keeper.”
But when the BOE inexplicably changed the terms of their verbal agreement and raised his weekly payments from $1,000 a week to $1,200, Roman said he felt he had reached the end of his rope.
It’s like they were “tying my hands and telling me to swim,” he said back then, noting he had been making the agreed upon payments.
Roman said when news of his situation became public, several other business people who said they had gone through the same thing contacted him and offered their support. Others expressed outrage.
“The local BOE employees appear to be using unreasonable tactics against an operator that wants to and IS doing the right thing,” said Jesse Torres, President and CEO of Pan American Bank, in a comment he posted online at egpnews.com. “Adding new debt by sending the ‘keeper’ when he has already been complying with the original, albeit ‘verbal’ agreement, makes no logical sense and appears overly punitive.”
Torres also encouraged EGP readers to patronize Roman’s restaurant saying, “The food is great!”
Roman said business owners from East Los Angeles to Monterey Park visited him just to tell him that they too, at some point, had had a similar experience with the BOE. They congratulated him for speaking out.
The levy on his credit card sales was lifted on Monday, which means he now has working capital. His weekly payment was lowered to $900 a week, and he expects his bill to be paid in full by June 29, at which time the BOE has agreed to reinstate his business permit.
Roman said the BOE has also agreed to work with him on next quarter’s tax filing, to avoid getting into the same mess again.
“I want to thank Jesse Torres of Pan American Bank, Jaime Rodriguez of Sen. Ron Calderon’s office, East LA Works, EGP and the community in East Los Angeles,” for their help, Roman said. He also thanked Arlene Dimapilis, district liaison to BOE Chairman Jerome Horton and José Gonzalez of East LA Works.
Roman, who not too long ago was recognized by Supervisor Gloria Molina for his contributions to the community, said he is now being encouraged to share his experience with local business chambers so other entrepreneurs, who may be too proud to ask for help, or are too intimidated or afraid of retaliation from tax collectors to speak out, can learn from his experience.Print This Post
June 9, 2011 Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.