The State Liquor Authority has taken action against an East Aurora bar that hasn't paid taxes in nearly two decades - but it isn't over the tax bill.
Mayor Allan Kasprzak tells 7 Eyewitness News the liquor license was pulled from the Ice House on Elm Street because the bar was allegedly serving alcohol to minors. He says the bar was caught serving underage customers last July during an underage drinking initiative by the Erie County Sheriff's Office.
During a hearing in November, the mayor says the Ice House pleaded no contest and their liquor license was revoked on Tuesday. If they serve alcohol, it would mean a misdemeanor charge.
According to the State Liquor Authority, "no license may be issued to said licensee for a period of two years."
Residents say the bar has been a problem for years.
"I've had property damaged, my windows smashed, my kids harassed. It's just a - it's a constant thing," said Joshua Martin, who owns a neighboring business.
The bar's attorney, Robert Gleichenhaus, disputed that, described the Ice House as a "mom and pop shop" that has served loyal patrons for years.
"Some of the residents are unhappy with having an establishment that isn't as upscale as they consider their town to be," he said in a phone interview. He went on to say, "At the end of the day, these are people struggling to stay in business and serve the regular, ordinary people who happen to be in this town."
Mayor Kasprzak said he's known about the complaints for some time but even more concerning is a $250,000 tax bill that goes back nearly two decades. We first told you about it last June.
"I know that if I didn't pay my taxes in a timely manner they'd be knocking on my door come hell or high water to get their money. But why a business is allowed for almost 18 years to not have to pay county taxes is beyond me," Kasprzak said.
He also said every time it looks like the bar will go up for auction, the owner files for bankruptcy, stalling the process. So far, he says it's happened five times. Although the bar owes almost $250,000 in back taxes, Kasprzak says the village still has to provide the same services it does to all other businesses.
"They're getting police services, they're getting fire services, they're getting ambulance services, they're getting DPW services, they're getting whatever services we have to offer, but they have no skin in the game," he said.
The county's press secretary, Peter Anderson, says the county has known about the bar's problems for years, but he says every time the county moves to foreclose on the property, the owner files bankruptcy. That means the county can't touch it.
"The owner of the Ice House is a serial bankruptcy filer," said Anderson. "The property has a couple hundred thousand dollars of back taxes. The county doesn't take that lightly. And has been trying to get the process moving forward, but has been stalled by an owner who is adept at playing the process."
Erie County had planned to move forward with a new type of foreclosure - a judicial foreclosure that would focus solely on The Ice House. When we spoke to him in June, Anderson said the paperwork is expected to be filed within the next few months, but the court process could take months, if not years, to complete.
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