Steamboat Springs Hayden’s HiWay Bar closed nine days earlier than its owners expected when the Colorado Department of Revenue seized the establishment Thursday to recover nine months’ worth of unpaid sales taxes.
A notice posted on the business at 136 E. Jefferson Ave. announced that the furniture, personal property, fixtures, equipment and inventory inside the bar will be auctioned off to the public Jan. 5 to recover an estimated $5,084 in unpaid sales taxes and employee wage withholdings in 2011.
Andrea Wheat, who owns and operates the bar with her husband, Kendal Wheat, could not be reached for comment about the seizure Tuesday afternoon.
She announced last week the bar would close Saturday because of slow business in a sour economic climate. She said the establishment, which has served as a gathering place for west Routt County residents since the mid-1930s, has not been turning a profit. Kitchen operations at the bar ceased earlier this month as its hours were scaled back in preparation for the closure.
“It’s really sad to see an icon close, but financially my husband and I cannot continue taking that huge loss monthly,” Andrea Wheat said last week.
A New Year’s Eve celebration during the bar’s final hours was scheduled for Saturday.
Fawna Odom, who owns the building and previously owned the HiWay Bar, said Tuesday she was saddened to find that the locks on the building had been changed by the Department of Revenue last week and that the business inside was closed for the first time in decades.
“It broke my heart. It absolutely broke my heart,” Odom said. “I have over 20-plus years invested in this place, including a remodel. This absolutely has devastated me.”
Odom said she was working with her attorney to discuss how the lockout will affect her plans to reopen the establishment she purchased in 1990.
“We’re hoping to get an injunction to get this stopped,” she said.
Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch said Tuesday that if the tax liability is settled, the auction could be stopped. He added that only the business was seized, and not the building, which Odom still owns.
Odom said when the Wheats, who operated the bar under the Wheat Corp., took ownership of the bar in October 2010, they also were working to purchase the building.
Odom added there now are pieces of furniture, plates and other inventory items of hers that are locked inside the bar, and she has not spoken with Andrea Wheat since she announced last week the HiWay Bar would close.
“I don’t think it’s right that they take my money and my things to help pay for (Andrea’s debt),” Odom said about the Department of Revenue’s planned auction.
The tension between the landlord and the tenant dates back to the fall, when Odom sought to recover a paycheck from Wheat for 50 hours’ worth of work at the HiWay Bar.
According to Routt County Court judicial assistant Cat Schaffrick, Odom filed a claim against Andrea Wheat and the Wheat Corp. on Sept. 12 in Routt County’s small claims court to recover $350 in wages Odom earned while bartending at the HiWay Bar during the summer.
The case was dismissed Oct. 17, one day before a scheduled court hearing, after Odom informed a judge Wheat eventually paid the wages.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com