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Indiana Township bar, padlocked, to reopen

| Friday, May 17, 2013, 11:24 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
A sign on the front door announces the closing of Gators Grille in Indiana Township for unpaid county drink taxes early Friday afternoon. The tax was paid hours later and the bar reopened by about 4 p.m. May 17, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
An Allegheny County treasury agent places a 'Closed' sticker on the door to Gators Grille as Sheriff Deputy S. Green watches at the Indiana Township bar and restaurant on Friday. The business was shut down for unpaid county drink taxes early Friday afternoon. The tax was paid hours later and the bar reopened by about 4 p.m. May 17, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
Action Locksmith's Warren Windgassen changes the lock at one of the entrances to Gators Grille as an Allegheny County treasury agent watches at the Indiana Township bar and restaurant on Friday. The business was shut down for unpaid county drink taxes in the early afternoon. The tax was paid hours later and the bar reopened by about 4 p.m. May 17, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
Gators Grille in Indiana Township on Friday, May 17, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
An Allegheny County treasury agent carries a cash register from the patio area of Gators Grille as Sheriff Deputy S. Green stays by his side at the Indiana Township bar and restaurant on Friday, May 17, 2013. Authorities closed the business for unpaid county drink taxes in the early afternoon. The tax was paid hours later and the bar reopened by about 4 p.m. May 18, 2013.

An Indiana Township bar and restaurant was briefly closed Friday afternoon for failing to pay Allegheny County's alcoholic drink tax.

Sheriff's deputies arrived at Gators Grille at 3410 Saxonburg Blvd., across from Hartwood Towne Centre, around 1 p.m. to “padlock” the building. The business had been open and serving lunch.

It reopened around 4 p.m. after owner John Scott settled up with the county.

Gators Grille is listed with the state as owned by Antoja Inc. Scott owns the business, said Bob Miecznikowski, manager of the county's special tax division.

The business owed more than $32,500 in the unpaid tax, according to county Treasurer John Weinstein's office. It had not filed any returns for the 7 percent tax from June through March, Miecznikowski said.

He said the tax is due monthly.

Surprised patrons were forced to leave, including some who had sat down but never got a chance to order food. Employees who had not been aware of the business' tax debt left.

“I love this place,” said Kevin McKamish of Fox Chapel. “We didn't even know about it until we sat down to eat.”

A locksmith changed the locks, and deputies posted “closed” signs. A notice for a June sheriff's sale of the bar's contents, including its liquor license, was put in a front window.

Potential customers slowed as they drove by, got a look at the deputies and media assembled in the parking lot, then drove away.

“Unbelievable. Where am I going to go?” one distressed man said upon discovering Gators closed.

A payment of nearly $32,800 allowed Gators to reopen, Miecznikowski said.

Manager Jake Schaffold said it would reopen around 4 p.m., in time for last night's Penguins playoff game, drink specials for which were advertised on the restaurant's sign.

“They straightened everything out down there,” Schaffold said.

Scott did not respond to a request through Schaffold for comment.

In a statement, Weinstein said the closing was part of his effort “to protect the taxpayers from delinquent bar owners who misappropriate their money.”

Weinstein has authorized the filing of more than 120 lawsuits against delinquent establishments, resulting in more than $1 million of delinquent collections.

A total of 35 establishments have been shut down and padlocked for not paying taxes due.

“As I stated before, it is not fair to other bar and restaurant owners, and the taxpayers who frequent these establishments that the drink taxes collected are not remitted to the county in a timely manner,” Weinstein said.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 orbrittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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