State seizes Snowmass restaurant
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colorado ” Colorado Department of Revenue agents on Wednesday seized the Ullrhof mid-mountain restaurant at Snowmass ski area for failing to pay state sales taxes, making it the second establishment in the resort to be shut down in less than a month.
The Ullrhof, owned by Florida businessman Dan Branch and some partners, has failed to pay $204,125.22 in Colorado sales tax since November, according to Mark Couch, spokesman for the revenue department.
“The sales taxes they collect aren’t theirs to keep,” he said. “Customers are trusting that they will pay that to the state. It’s the customer’s money.”
Kathy Scott, general manager of the Ullrhof, said that figure seems high since the restaurant was down 35 percent this season, not even reaching $1 million in sales. The Colorado sales tax rate is 3 percent.
The state agency has made attempts to collect the money but to no avail. The Department of Revenue typically contacts a business multiple times to let it know a tax bill is due, and to try to work out payment arrangements.
“We don’t get to a point of seizing a business without notifying the owner repeatedly,” Couch said.
The Ullrhof’s unpaid tax is one of the highest Couch has seen, and is based on estimates from monthly filings made by the business that didn’t include adequate payments. The figure doesn’t include employee withholding taxes, which Couch believes have been paid.
“All we know is that they didn’t pay sales tax,” he said. “We are reviewing other liabilities.”
On April 15, the agency seized Nardi’s Restaurant on the Snowmass Mall, as well as the adjoining nightclub, Nardi’s Hideaway, owned by Peter Nardi.
Nardi didn’t pay the $45,591.10 owed in state sales tax, and the contents of his restaurant and nightclub were auctioned off April 29.
“It’s clear that the economy has had an impact,” Couch said, adding that typically if one business is seized by the Department of Revenue in a small resort town, others are motivated to pay their delinquent bills.
An auction of the Ullrhof’s contents is scheduled for 11 a.m. May 27 at a site yet to be determined, Couch said. Because the restaurant is located at the bottom of the Big Burn area on the mountain at 9,970 feet, it would be challenging to get interested buyers there.
Town of Snowmass officials declined to comment on whether the Ullrhof owes back taxes to the local government because paperwork is still being filed.
Branch, whose father, Paul Branch, a part-time Snowmass Village resident, helped finance the purchase of the business and lease, has owned the restaurant since July 2007, according to Pat Drake, the former owner.
The building is owned by the Aspen Skiing Co., and Branch and his partners still have roughly 15 years left on the lease, according to Dave Bellack, counsel for the Skico. He said he hadn’t been informed that Branch and his partners have defaulted on the rent payments, which are made at the beginning and end of the ski season.
Jeff Hanle, spokesman for the Skico, said the company is confident that the situation will be resolved by the time the mountain is reopened for the 2009-10 ski season.
“We will keep ourselves informed on the situation and react as needed,” he said.
Drake, who owned the restaurant from the early 1970s until 2007, said it’s a shame that the business is in trouble.
“It just makes me sick,” she said, adding she holds high regard for Paul Branch, but not necessarily for his son who is responsible for the operation. “Snowmass doesn’t need this. I just get sick to my stomach because of the neglect.”
Dan Branch couldn’t be reached for comment.
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The Two Rivers Community Foundation based in Glenwood Springs awarded $11,000 in grants to various area nonprofit organizations last year.