Taxman reopens coffee shop after jolt of cash

Debi Ryan has reopened Vox Pop after a brief encounter with the tax man.
The Brooklyn Paper / Barry Shifrin

A quirky, self-styled revolutionary coffeehouse that was seized and shuttered by the taxman last month has reopened.

Vox Pop, the bookstore, eatery, and jam space at Cortelyou and Stratford roads in Ditmas Park, had been visited on Dec. 18 by state tax officials who slapped the dreaded word “SEIZED” on the front door and hired a locksmith to make sure no one tried to brew coffee or sell copies of “One Thousand Reasons: The Appalling Record of the Bush Presidency.”

But after two weeks of floundering to get the store’s finances in order, a savior emerged: the former owner who started the whole mess in the first place.

The literary haunt’s troubles all started when former owner Sander 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.

The taxman soon caught up with Hicks, even though he had ended his affiliation with the coffee shop. It was shuttered nonetheless.

Debi Ryan, who took over the café/community center a year ago, had begun to steer Vox Pop towards financial stability, but much to Ditmas Park residents’ disappointment, she didn’t complete the U-turn.

Re-enter Hicks. Last month, he sold his $10,000 in shares of the cafe and handed $6,500 back to shareholders.

“He’s done the right thing,” said Ryan. “It doesn’t solve our financial problems, but it does open the door to other investors.”

With Hicks out of the picture, investors have ponied up the money to pay $10,000 to the New York State Department of Revenue (to add insult to forfeiture, the state also hit Ryan with a $661 bill to cover the cost of the locksmith).

According to Ryan, some of the 190 shareholders of the for-profit collective were angry that Hicks stood to profit should Vox Pop recover.

For his part, Hicks did not shy away from his flaws as a financial manager. “Vox Pop has been … a vibrant mix of successes and failures on my part. I feel no shame,” Hicks said. “I take responsibility for my flaws and shortcomings, for they are legion.”

Vox Pop [1022 Cortelyou Rd. at Stratford Road in Ditmas Park, (718) 940-2084].

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