Fishmonger’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar, which served seafood in downtown Durham’s Brightleaf District for more than 30 years, closed last week.
On Monday the N.C. Department of Revenue seized the business, changed the locks and collected the restaurant’s assets on Monday for a future auction.
Around 3:30 p.m., the eatery’s picnic-style tables had been removed from the black and white checkered tile floors. In the back, workers for the state dismantled what was left of the kitchen equipment and loaded it onto moving trucks.
Department of Revenue documents indicate owner Gary Bass owes up to $164,944 in sales tax and an additional $136 in withholding tax, said Trevor Johnson, a department spokesman. The documents extend back to March 2012 with the most recent delinquency noted in September.
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Public documents do not indicate whether Bass has made any payments on that amount, Johnson said.
Bass couldn’t be reached for comment Monday. He opened the business at 806 W. Main St. in 1983 as a seafood market, and it evolved into a restaurant.
The Department of Revenue served a civil warrant on Bass on Nov. 23 asking for what was owed, Johnson said. After the payment wasn’t received, the department started moving forward with the seizure process.
On Friday afternoon, Fishmonger’s posted a notice on Facebook signed by Gary Bass.
“With gratitude mixed with a few tears of regret, we announce the closing of Fishmonger's,” the notice states. “Fishmonger's Restaurant & Oyster Bar is now and has always been a landmark and part of Durham's history. Thanks for the memories.”
Most of the comments on the post were positive with people saying they would miss the oysters, triggerfish and fish n’ chips.
Other comments were critical.
“That place was dirty,” one states.
In the six health inspections the restaurant received in 2015, it scored from a 92 to a 77. In general, permits are revoked for establishments that receive a score of less than 70 percent.
Records at the Durham County courthouse also indicate that Bass has struggled to pay federal and state taxes dating back to 1988.
According to N.C. Secretary of State documents, Bass incorporated the company as Bass Mongers in April 2010. The state department dissolved the corporation in 2010 after it was delinquent in delivering six annual reports, according to the documents.
“I guess people can continue to do business, if they wish, but had some court matter or legal matter come up where they claimed corporate status being in good standing, this documentation would show they are not in good standing,” said Secretary of State spokesman George Jeter.