City taking Geppetto's to court over meals tax late payments

More than three months after police cited three Ashland restaurants for failing to pay the city's food and beverage tax, two of the restaurants have forked over the money — but one is still headed for court.

The city plans to take Geppetto's to court on Oct. 27, because the restaurant has repeatedly refused to turn over meals tax funds, said Lee Tuneberg, the city's administrative and finance director.

Tuneberg declined to disclose how much Geppetto's owes, but said that information may come out during the court hearing.

Stillwater and Big Al's, the other businesses cited, have settled the matter with the city. Stillwater has paid all of its back taxes and Big Al's has worked out a payment plan with the city, Tuneberg said.

Ashland restaurants collect a 5 percent tax on sales of all food and beverages and they are required to give 95 percent of the tax revenue to the city. They are allowed to keep 5 percent of the total tax collected for administrative fees.

About 20 percent of the tax, approved in 1993 by voters, goes to pay for open space in Ashland, and the remainder goes to pay the city's debt on its wastewater treatment system.

When restaurants fail to give their meals tax revenues to the city, they are penalizing locals, Tuneberg said.

"The restaurants are to collect it, hold it in trust and report and remit in a timely basis," he said. "If a restaurant doesn't do that they're actually hurting the citizens more than the city proper."

Ron Roth, owner of Geppetto's, said he hasn't paid the tax because he disagrees with the way the city spends the funds.

"As far as the meals tax goes, the city has not been a good steward of these funds," he said.

Roth declined to elaborate because he said he wants to save his argument for the courtroom.

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or

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