A popular downtown Springfield sports bar reopened Friday after the state took the unusual move earlier in the week of closing the business due to unpaid taxes. Sammy’s Sports Bar & Grill reopened after the owner reached agreement with state revenue officials to settle approximately $39,000 in back sales and withholding taxes.

A popular downtown Springfield sports bar reopened Friday after the state took the unusual move earlier in the week of closing the business due to unpaid taxes.


Sammy’s Sports Bar & Grill reopened after the owner reached agreement with state revenue officials to settle approximately $39,000 in back sales and withholding taxes.


The restaurant had been closed off and on for several days after the Illinois Department of Revenue suspended a sales-tax collection license and ordered the business to shut down.


“I can tell you his license has been reinstated,” department spokeswoman Sue Hofer said on Friday. The agency has declined to release the amount owed or details of the settlement agreement.


But owner Tom Kelty Jr. said he has paid a “substantial amount” of the $39,000, and that he has until the end of January to pay the remainder.


Kelty said a previous offer to pay $10,000 was rejected by the revenue department, but that he does take responsibility for falling behind.


“Absolutely. It was our fault that we got behind on it. There’s nobody to blame but ourselves for that,” said Kelty.


Hofer said the department tried to collect the back taxes several times before issuing a notice of license suspension in September, adding that shutting down a business is a last resort.


“We don’t take revocation actions without trying to work things out,” Hofer said. “Our goal is to collect revenue. Our goal is not to take over a business or to shut down a business.”


Kelty said he believes the state decided to make an example of his bar, which has been in business for about 5 ½ years, at a time when the economy and state tax revenues are down. But he said he has changed some internal procedures to assure sales and withholding taxes are paid on time.


He said the state-ordered shutdowns cost the business about $30,000 in revenue. He also cited the economy as one of the reasons he fell behind.


“People are tightening their belts (in this economy). They are spending less, and you can’t blame them. We’ve been in a recession,” said Kelty.


He also took aim at the state’s backlog of unpaid bills.


“They (the state) stiff nursing homes, hospitals and everybody else for eight, 10 or 12 months, and don’t pay any interest, but if you get behind to them, you pay a penalty plus interest,” Kelty said.


Hofer said the action against Sammy’s was not part of a special crackdown on tax delinquencies, but that neither can the state afford to allow taxes to go uncollected, especially at a time when the budget is in “dire straits.”


“If you’re collecting taxes on customers and employees, you have a fiduciary responsibility to forward that money to the state,” Hofer said.


The revenue department estimates 2,300 to 2,500 businesses are shut down annually statewide for failure to collect sales and withholding taxes. Hofer said owners often pay up once the collections license is revoked.


“We do see that a lot,” she said.


Tim Landis can be reached at (217) 788-1536 or tim.landis@sj-r.com.


How often does this happen?


_According to the Illinois Department of Revenue, sales tax license revocations have held steady at 2,200 to 2,300 annually in the past five years.


_The department Web site, www.revenue.state.il.us/, lists 100 individuals and businesses statewide that owe at least $1,000. Amounts range from $2,500 to $388,000.