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Treasurer seizes taxes from BK

First, Azhar Holding Co. – a Smithfield company that owns two Burger King franchises in Suffolk – ignored the city’s efforts to collect its meals tax revenue.

So after three months, a mounting $20,000 due in meals taxes that had not been turned over to the city and no response to letters from his office, City Treasurer Ron Williams got more aggressive. Last week, accompanied by city deputies, he went in to seize the contents of the cash registers and safes at the two restaurants to address the outstanding debt.

“We had to take collective action … to bring them into compliance,” said Williams.

Things appeared to be working – the company, owned by Salina and Sarmed Azhar, gave the city a check for approximately $3,300 of the $20,000 it owed early last week, Williams said.

“We just learned this morning that that check is worthless,“ he said on Friday.

No criminal charges have been filed to date.

Attempts to reach Azhar at his office were unsuccessful Friday.

Restaurants in the city collect a 6 ½ percent food tax on each dollar spent, Williams said. Under Virginia law, the restaurants are supposed to hold the money in a separate account and turn it over to the locality where the restaurant is located once a month.

There have been other restaurants in Suffolk that have fallen behind in their payments, Williams said. But the owners of those restaurants did communicate and work with his office to create a plan to bring them back into financial compliance.

“We will work with them until the funds are paid,” he said. Williams said he had been told that the Azhars had been out of the country during the past three months.

Money generated from meals taxes is important to the city’s revenue stream and operating budget, Williams said.