For the second time in less than six months, a quirky, self-styled revolutionary coffeehouse in Ditmas Park has been shuttered by the taxman.
Vox Pop, the bookstore, eatery, and jam space on Cortelyou Road between working class Kensington and hip Ditmas Park was padlocked last Tuesday night by state tax officials who slapped the dreaded word “SEIZED” on the front metal security gate, claiming that the coffeehouse owes $66,000 in taxes.
“The tax supervisor just told me that if we give him $15,000 up front and $1,000 a month after that he would allow us to reopen,” said Debi Ryan, who took over the café/community center from former owner Sander Hicks a little more than a year ago.
Hicks, the part-time anarchist, part-time gubernatorial candidate and full-time conspiracy theory publisher, failed to do that most patriotic of things: pay his taxes.
Ryan, along with some 190 like-minded investors, ended up buying out Hicks, but remained saddled with his tax debt. And in December, the state shuttered the literary haunt for owing $56,000.
Ryan paid $10,000 to the state to reopen in January, and has cut deals with the landlord, vendors and employees to slowly pay off other debts.
But that payment wasn’t enough to keep the taxman at bay — because the interest and penalties on Hick’s remaining debt has ballooned. Now Ryan is again brainstorming for a way to come up with the $15,000 to reopen.
“I’m sure it will involve a fundraiser effort. We had one planned for May 25, but we’ll have to have one sooner to get the place reopened,” said Ryan. “I’ll speak with the shareholders from the community and the board, and we’ll figure out the most logical steps ahead.”
State Department of Tax and Finance spokesman Brad Maione refused to comment, citing privacy restrictions,
Neighbors said that they hope the quirky coffee shop will reopen soon.
“Maybe they just cannot make the money,” said Raul Cassetto, who has worked at George’s Restaurant around the corner on Coney Island Avenue for over 20 years. “We‘re a 24-hour place, and they have these bands. I guess that cost money. It’s just one of those things. I don’t think it’s negligence.”