Local restaurant auction is on hold
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE ” A legal bid to prevent the state from auctioning off about $16,000 worth of restaurant equipment leased to a now-defunct Breckenridge eatery hit a logistical snag Thursday, when a local judge ordered the proceedings moved to Denver.
Nancy Peters had asked the State Department of Revenue to allow her to retrieve her company’s restaurant equipment before auctioning off the rest of the property at Le Petit Paris, which was shuttered for unpaid taxes.
Arguing on behalf of the state, assistant attorney general Carolyn Lievers said state law requires any legal action against a state agency to be taken where that body has its official residence ” in this case, Denver.
District Court Judge Terry Ruckriegel agreed, so Peters will have to ask a Denver district judge for a temporary injunction to prevent the sale of her property.
“You have to use Denver, even if it’s (for) injunctive relief,” Lievers said, fighting for the Department of Revenue’s ability to auction off the equipment leased to the restaurant by Peters’ Fairplay-based company, Sanford’s Used Restaurant Equipment.
At Ruckriegel’s urging, Lievers promised that the state would not take any steps to sell the property until the case has been heard in Denver.
Peters, represented by attorney Sarah Horvitz, was asking the court for a temporary injunction to prevent the state from selling the leased equipment until the issue is decided in a trial.
If the dispute is heard in court, it will focus on differing interpretations of the lease Peters had with Le Petit Paris.
“What we’re arguing about is who signed the lease,” Horvitz said after Thursday’s hearing.
The state contends that the lease is invalid because it was signed by restaurant owner Arielle Coutouzis personally and not on behalf of the business, and the Department of Revenue therefore has the right to sell the equipment.
“Under the law, when we seize property like that, we have a first lien on all the goods and fixtures,” Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch said previously.
There is a provision for return of leased property to its owners before auction, but it has to be subject to a “bona fide” lease, Couch said.
Peters presented the court with a copy of a lease signed by Coutouzis in February that listed items such as refrigerators, an oven and a range that her company provided to Le Petit Paris for a rental fee of about $500 per month.
“I still feel the same. I still believe we have a valid lease,” said Peters, who is uncertain whether she will pursue legal action in Denver.
The Department of Revenue took action against the restaurant because Coutouzis failed to pay both sales and withholding taxes.
In business since February of 2007, the Adams Street bistro fell behind almost immediately and made no sales-tax filings at all since January.
State officials seized the establishment and all its contents on July 9, scheduling an auction to recoup the $18,000 tax shortfall.
Staff of the 52-seat French eatery ” listed as the No. 1 Breckenridge restaurant on the Internet travel website TripAdvisor ” were preparing for their usual 5 p.m. opening when officials ordered everyone out and changed the locks on the doors.
Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at email@example.com.
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