I am a mother of three little boys who love Tasty Dog. It is a local, independent business that is kind and generous to my children, and a good neighbor to the community. I was shocked when I read about their tax situation in the newspaper months ago. [Frankly, Tasty Dog has a tax problem, News, July 22]
Based on conversations I had recently, I realized that some people don’t understand what happened. Tasty Dog’s owners didn’t just decide not to pay their taxes. They legitimately didn’t know anything about having to pay a “leasehold tax.” Apparently, this tax is billed by Cook County to the owner of the property. However, if the land is owned by the village, the property becomes exempt from this leasehold tax, unless the property is leased to a for-profit business. When the village became the new landlord, Tasty Dog signed a new lease with the village and there was no mention of a leasehold tax in the contract.
I saw that the Journal had posted the contract that Tasty Dog had signed with the village online, so I read it. Sure enough, I couldn’t find any mention of a lease tax. (I even had a friend who is a commercial real estate attorney read it to make sure I wasn’t missing something. He hadn’t heard of this lease tax, either.) So, I can imagine how blindsided Tasty Dog’s owners must have felt when they received additional tax bills for a total of $120,000 out of the blue. All for a lease tax that dated back six years when the village became their new landlord.
Tasty Dog’s owners were not aware that they were on the hook for this lease tax. How could they have known? 1) The attorney for the village wasn’t aware of the tax. 2) Tasty Dog’s attorney wasn’t aware of the tax. 3) It was not written in their contract with the village. 4) They didn’t get billed for five years, and 5) at their old location across the street, the previous landlord apparently paid this tax directly, unbeknownst to Tasty Dog. Tasty Dog was in no way responsible for property taxes above and beyond its rent. If you leased a building (apartment or other), you wouldn’t expect to owe taxes on that rental property in addition to your rent.
The owners of Tasty Dog are in the business of making good, fun, fast food. They don’t pretend to be commercial real estate experts or tax attorneys. Now that Tasty Dog is aware of it, the owners are trying to pay this tax bill. But, according to what I have read, it could very likely put them out of business. How many small businesses have an extra $120,000 sitting around, especially in an economy this bad?
So, stop by Tasty Dog, have a meal and help support a locally owned, independently operated business. Let’s not lose another one.
Renee Domenz is an eight-year Oak Park resident who has had dinner at Tasty Dog after her three sons’ tae kwon do class almost every week for five years, as well as other meals there.