Restaurant owner jailed

Published 11:09 pm Thursday, February 9, 2012

A former Suffolk restaurant owner recently was jailed after failing to pay any of the back taxes she owed from her restaurant.

Sharon Hensley-Tarr, 51, was found guilty of six counts of failure to pay meals tax from the Oysterette restaurant that used to stand on North Main Street across from the courthouse. She was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Hensley-Tarr was arrested in July 2011 for the arrears from August 2010 to January 2011. She owed just under $5,000 to the city.

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Restaurant owners collect the 6.5-percent tax on meals and beverages from restaurant patrons at the time they pay for their food. The taxes collected each month are due by the 20th of the next month.

Deputy Treasurer Keith Ainsley said Hensley-Tarr has not paid any of the money for which she was in arrears since the court process started.

Treasurer Ron Williams said it is unusual for business owners to be sentenced to actual jail time for tax problems.

“As long as the restaurant owner is acting in good faith, that makes a big difference,” he said. “This is an example of where we couldn’t get any response whatsoever. We are always willing to work with the restaurants once they have a problem.”

Hensley-Tarr was sentenced to 30 days in jail for each of the two complaints that were more than $1,000 and was fined $100 for each of the four complaints that were less than $1,000.

After being arrested in July, Hensley-Tarr was told at an August court date that she had three months to pay the arrears.

She then failed to show up for her court date in November. She was fined $100 for that failure to appear charge.

Ainsley said it is possible Hensley-Tarr could be released from jail while awaiting appeal if she appealed the case to Circuit Court; however, an online court information system does not show that the case has been appealed.