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.

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June 9, 2011  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

Comments

4 Responses to “Public Attention Bodes Well for East LA Eatery”

  1. NN on June 10th, 2011 11:18 am

    Although I feel for struggling businesses…you collected the sales tax and it should have been remitted. Why wasn’t it? And why let it get to the point where your permit is revoked? They don’t just revoke it right away. In addition, if you are quarterly filer that means you are making very GOOD sales each year. Obviously, the whole story was not revealed to the public.

  2. Jim Roman on June 11th, 2011 1:47 am

    In response to someone who feels for struggling businesses. Your right a permit doesn’t get revoked right away, at least so I thought. My permit was revoked in 2009 and my business opened in April of 2009. In my opinion that is right away. From the begining I was late remitting my sales taxes, but I always paid including interest and penalties and I always filed my quarterlies and since when does filing quarterlies mean that one is making very GOOD sales. I do know that I have very LARGE operating expenses. I do know that at one point I remitted over $6,000 in order to get caught up with sales taxes and have my permit reinstated. I was denied reinstatement because I made my payment a couple of days late. Those couple of days included the weekend and by the way the B.O.E. is closed weekends. There are employers and there are employees and it is obvious to me that you are an employee and until you become an employer you will never know what it takes to run a business or understand anything about all the sacrifices and hardships that it takes to keep that dream alive. I feel that you missed the principal of the article. There are times when through communication and not intimidation that one can come to a reasonable solution that works in the best interest of both parties involved. It shouldn’t be a one way street that is in favor of one party involved and financially detrimental to another. In todays struggling economy and now more than ever businesses should be encouraged to succeed not discouraged. I do agree with you that the whole story wasn’t revealed, but I didn’t find it necessary to reveal so much. Thank You and God Bless.

  3. adk123 on June 11th, 2011 6:59 am

    You were recognized for your contributions to the community? How did the community benefit from your collecting sales tax quarter after quarter and not paying it to the State? Leaving a community which is heavily dependent upon State services without the funds you collected? The BOE is going to work with you for another quarter which means you didn’t set aside another 3 months of sales tax? BOE only uses “keepers” as a last resort.

    Go ahead and authorize the release of your history with BOE to the public – I dare you – so we can see both sides of the story.

  4. Amber Townsend on June 14th, 2011 8:29 pm

    He is a tax cheat. He collected reimbursement but did not pay the tax he legally owes. How more clear is that.

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