Fawna Odom poses with a sign announcing that she plans to reopen the HiWay Bar in Hayden sometime this month. A community fundraiser allowed Odom to take possession of the bar back from the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Rondi Bowlin/Courtesy

Fawna Odom poses with a sign announcing that she plans to reopen the HiWay Bar in Hayden sometime this month. A community fundraiser allowed Odom to take possession of the bar back from the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Community raises $10K to stop seizure of Hayden's HiWay Bar

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— The liquor, fixtures and furniture inside Hayden’s shuttered HiWay Bar will not be auctioned off to the public Thursday after a group of community members rallied this week to pay off $10,000 worth of unpaid sales taxes and employee wage withholdings the bar owed to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

On Tuesday, Fawna Odom, who in 1990 purchased the bar that first opened its doors in 1935, paid off the debt and took ownership of the bar back from Andrea and Kendal Wheat, who announced last month that they were closing the venue because of poor business. The Wheats took ownership of the bar in October 2010 and were responsible for the unpaid sales taxes and wage withholdings. A call to Andrea Wheat was not returned Wednesday.

A determined Odom announ­ced Wednesday that she plans to move the bar past the seizure and reopen the establishment with a Western theme in the next two weeks.

“We’re moving forward,” Odom said as she and a group of seven friends and former employees cleaned the bar. “From the bottom of my heart, I don’t know how to thank this town for how I feel. I’m overwhelmed for their generosity and dedication to this place.”

She said the bar once again would open its doors to patrons after she is able to secure a liquor license.

Odom said the path to the bar’s reopening started last week with a fundraising campaign that had community members seeking donations door to door and on Facebook. By Tuesday, Odom said about 30 Hayden residents donated and loaned her the $10,000 she said was enough to take the bar back from the Department of Revenue.

The bar originally was seized for $5,084 in unpaid sales taxes and wage withholdings, but Odom said that figure increased last week. Department of Revenue spokesman Mark Couch confirmed Wednesday that the auction and seizure was stopped Tuesday after the tax liability was paid.

Rondi Bowlin said she donated money to help the bar reopen because she couldn’t imagine the town permanently without it.

“Hayden is a small community, so of course if somebody is in trouble financially, we all pitch in and try to help,” Bowlin said. “I was thrilled to death to drive by the HiWay Bar and see the sign that said it was opening soon.”

Ownership tension

Meanwhile, tension between Odom and her former tenants continued this week. Shortly after she took back control of the bar Tuesday, Odom had the Hayden Police Department serve Andrea Wheat a trespass notice that will prevent the former bar operator from entering the property. Odom called the notice a “preventative measure.”

“She has no business coming back in here,” Odom said.

The tension between Odom and Wheat 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 records, Odom filed a claim against Andrea Wheat and 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 one day before a scheduled court hearing Oct. 17 after Odom informed a judge that Wheat paid the wages.

The Wheats operated the bar under Wheat Corp. and were working to purchase the building until it closed last month.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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