Belle at the Jones House, a restaurant that opened in 2014 amid the town’s revitalization efforts, has settled its debt owed to the State of North Carolina but will remain closed, its owner said Thursday.
Jones House Cary LLC, the associated limited liability company, owed the state about $51,605, including fees and interest, according to documents filed with the Wake County Clerk of Superior Court on Oct. 1, 2015, and Jan. 8, 2016. Court documents show Jones House LLC failed to pay about $2,000 to $4,000 in taxes per month between September 2014 and October 2015.
“That is all settled, and we are all done,” owner Tammy Calaway-Harper said in an interview Thursday, Jan. 28, two days after the N.C. Department of Revenue moved out the restaurant’s furniture and equipment.
The department had seized the restaurant Thursday, Jan. 21.
It is unclear how much the downtown Cary business paid in the settlement.
Two civil lawsuits also have been filed against the company with one for more than $22,700. The second one has been dismissed.
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.
Calaway-Harper said restaurant was seized because of the loss of revenue and business during downtown Cary’s streetscape project construction along South Academy Street and Dry Avenue.
“Our sales were down by over half, easily 75 percent,” Calaway-Harper said. “It’s a very big challenge to have to open a place, number one, in downtown Cary, where the traffic is not well established anyway, and to have road construction on top of that. ... I put a quarter of a million dollars in the restaurant to try to make it work, and I just couldn’t do it.
“We are grateful for the experience, and we gave it 150 percent, but sometimes that’s just not enough,” she said.
Calaway-Harper said she doesn’t expect the eatery to reopen.
“My fight is done,” she said Tuesday. “I can only do so much.”
The Jones House is a 2,206 square-foot structure that was originally constructed in 1896. The house sits on a 16,980-square-foot lot adjacent to the Cary Arts Center on Dry Avenue.
The town acquired the property for $601,500 and spent $255,000 to help renovate the historic 19th house. 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 N.C. 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.
The town will maintain ownership of the building, said Ted Boyd, the town’s downtown development manager.
“We are working through the obligations of the lease at this time and will share any next steps once that is resolved,” he said Thursday.
Kathryn Trogdon: 919-460-2608: @KTrogdon