Belle at the Jones House, a restaurant that opened in 2014 amid the town’s revitalization efforts, has closed after failing to pay sales taxes, according to the N.C. Department of Revenue.
Jones House Cary LLC, the associated limited liability company, owes the state about $26,235, including fees and interest, according to documents filed with the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court on Jan. 8. Court documents show Jones House LLC failed to pay $2,000 to $4,000 in taxes per month between March and October 2015.
Two civil lawsuits also have been filed against the company one for more than $22,700. The second one has been dismissed.
In an interview, owner Tammy Calaway-Harper said the seizure is due to the business and revenue lost from downtown Cary’s streetscape project construction along South Academy Street and Dry Avenue.
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“The construction was really hard on us, and you know, when you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul, because the business isn’t there, traffic is not able to get to you,” she said. “It makes it very difficult. We are grateful for the experience, and we gave it 150 percent, but sometimes that’s just not enough.”
Calaway-Harper said she doesn’t expect the eatery to reopen.
“My fight is done,” she said. “I can only do so much.”
The farm-to-table restaurant opened at 324 S. Academy St., in August 2014, as part of the town’s push to rejuvenate downtown. The restaurant served breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring locally grown ingredients.
The town spent $255,000 to help renovate the historic 19th century Jones House, built in 1896. Belle had leased the building from the town for $2,191 per month and was up to date on payments, according to town officials. Belle did not have to pay rent for the first four months, officials said.
Court documents show that Belle’s troubles started less than a year after it opened.
Two civil lawsuits were filed against Jones House LLC within the last year. Ragsdale Liggett PLLC, a Raleigh law firm, claimed the business owed $1,387.65, plus interest, for services in 2013, including time spent revising the lease with the Town of Cary. Ragsdale Liggett withdrew the claims in September.
In addition, the United Restaurant Equipment Corporation, a restaurant equipment supplier, claimed Jones House LLC owed about $22,735. In December, Jones House LLC was ordered to pay that amount with interest.
On Tuesday afternoon, Revenue Department workers parked two trucks at the restaurant, hauling out everything from the oven to decorations and KitchenAid mixers to be packed away.
NCDOR Spokesman Trevor Johnson said if a business needs to be seized, department representatives come to the business to collect the money that is owed. If the owner is not able to pay the taxes, the department will take it over. NCDOR will continue working with the taxpayer, and if he or she pays, “they get the keys back,” he said. If the money isn’t paid, property inside the establishment will be sold at auction to make up for what is owed.
If Belle closes for good, the town will maintain ownership of the building, said Ted Boyd, the town’s downtown development manager.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608, @KTrogdon