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Landmark East Deer restaurant in limbo

Chuck Biedka
| Friday, March 29, 2013, 11:27 a.m.
The Creighton Hotel in East Deer is closed for business, as seen on Thursday, March 28, 2013.
Eric Felack | Valley News Dispatch
The Creighton Hotel in East Deer is closed for business, as seen on Thursday, March 28, 2013.

Any effort to reopen East Deer's landmark restaurant-bar will require payment of more than $25,000 in delinquent Allegheny County “alcoholic drink tax” and costs.

Creighton Hotel owner Cary A. Rigatti of Hilltop Drive, Lower Burrell, said he closed the business at 995 Freeport Road on March 19.

Rigatti said he has a potential buyer who wants to reopen the restaurant and bar and retain the Creighton Hotel name. The business is more than 100 years old.

Rigatti declined to identify the purchaser Thursday, but said he is optimistic.

A liquor license transfer would require state approval.

“We're very disappointed,” said East Deer supervisors Chairman Anthony Taliani. “It's a loss.”Taliani said the restaurant has recently employed about six people, and those employees paid taxes.

He is hoping the business will reopen under new ownership.

The Creighton Hotel opened in 1907, and the Rigatti family purchased the eatery, bar and small hotel in 2001. County assessment records show the hotel and the 5,400-square-foot lot are valued at a combined $222,600.

Tax less than 5 years old

The county drink tax, based on liquor sales, was enacted in 2008. In 2009, the tax rate was reduced from 10 percent to 7 percent.

County Special Tax Division Manager Bob Miecznikowski said the government took Rigatti to court and a judge ruled in favor of the county earlier this month.According to a judgment, the judge ordered C. Rigatti Inc., doing business as the Creighton Hotel, to pay more than $25,000 once penalties and costs were added.A county website that lists delinquent drink tax accounts alleges the tax hasn't been paid for the Creighton Hotel for about 2 12 years.

In all, about 50 business — including 10 in the Alle-Kiski Valley — owe the drink tax.

At the Creighton Hotel, a large sign announces the closing and thanks customers.

Sheriff's department notices are posted on the building's many doors, including one near six mailboxes for people staying there.

In addition to announcing the forced closing, the sheriff's notice announces an April 26 sale of the liquor license, a stove, coolers and other items.

Sheriff William P. Mullen said the sale will be canceled if the tax, penalties and costs are paid before then.

Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said any liquor license transfer “must be done through the board.”

Kate M. Diersen, an attorney who filed the civil judgment action for the county and also is in private practice, said a sale of the business and PLCB transfer of license can often be done swiftly.

Miecznikowski, the tax manager, said the county doesn't know how much businesses owe for the drink tax because of the way the tax is calculated.Each company is supposed to submit a “coupon” listing its monthly liquor sales, and some companies don't file the report, let alone pay the tax, Miecznikowski said.The county collected about $38 million in drink tax revenue in 2008, about $27 million the next year when the tax rate was reduced and $32.2 million last year.

About $3.9 million was collected for the first two months of the year, Miecznikowski said.

Chuck Biedka is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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