The Omaha City Council delayed a vote on a request to expand a liquor license at an Omaha sports bar that owes more than $24,000 in restaurant tax to the city.
The council on Tuesday voted 5-0 to delay acting on the expansion requested by Starsky’s, near 72nd and F Streets.
City Councilwoman Aimee Melton said it’s wrong that Starsky’s is collecting the tax from diners and keeping the money.
“At this point in time, you literally have made a profit off the taxpayers and customers of your business,” she told owner Kristi Todorovich.
Todorovich said she didn’t realize how much she owed but noted that the unpaid taxes are from the existing Starsky’s location, plus a former 13th Street location that’s now closed.
Todorovich said she’d been in touch with the city’s Finance Department and was on a payment plan.
However, City Treasurer Donna Waller said the business hadn’t paid anything to the city since July. In fact, the city has tried to work with the business. So has a collection agency, she said, which has filed judgments against Starsky’s in court.
The establishment’s problems date back to 2012, according to the city. Councilman Brinker Harding said it’s not fair that Starsky’s hasn’t paid, while other restaurants are following the rules.
Omaha has had a 2.5 percent tax at restaurants since 2011. Starsky’s is not the only establishment delinquent on paying the tax.
About 70 restaurants are behind on paying the tax, according to the Finance Department. The department estimated that $575,000 in taxes hasn’t been paid by those 70 establishments. Waller said the majority are repeat offenders who haven’t paid for months.
Starsky’s wants to expand its liquor license for an outdoor beer garden. The denial doesn’t affect its existing liquor license for its inside area, so it can continue to serve alcohol.
According to an Oct. 10 memo from the city’s chief building inspector, Starsky’s also hadn’t gotten the required permits for its proposed outdoor area.
The council’s vote was delayed until Nov. 20. City Council President Ben Gray said that in the meantime he wanted to see a good faith effort by Todorovich to make payments and seek the permits.
“We’re in favor of small business, but there’s this other part that makes it difficult,” said Councilman Vinny Palermo.
In other council business:
- The council approved two settlements that end ongoing lawsuits.
One involved a man who says he got into an accident at 40th and Pinkney Streets after the city didn’t fix a stop sign damaged in an earlier crash. Deputy City Attorney Alan Thelen said police allegedly failed to contact anyone to replace the sign.
The other case involved a driver who says he was struck by a city snowplow at 85th and Maple Streets.
Together, the settlements total almost $200,000. During a briefing before Tuesday’s meeting, Melton, an attorney, complimented the city’s Law Department on reaching the agreements.
Councilman Rich Pahls asked what happens to the city workers involved in such cases. Tim Young, the city’s HR director, said that it’s most likely up to the department head to initiate any discipline.
- The council delayed a vote on whether to expand the Blackstone Business Improvement District. Councilman Chris Jerram, who represents the area, was absent from the meeting and requested the delay.
Under the proposal, the business improvement district’s boundaries would include some 200 businesses, up from the current 40. It would also change the way businesses within the district are assessed. The money is used for betterment projects within the district, such as trash pickup and beautification.
Harding said there would be amendments to the original proposal.