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Restaurant owner charged with failing to pay city sales taxes

Posted: April 10, 2013 - 12:07am
Haydar Suyun, owner of the restaurant, Zephyr, stands in Sprazzo, that he opened in March of 2012. The city is taking Suyan to court for not paying sales taxes.  Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Michael Penn/Juneau Empire
Haydar Suyun, owner of the restaurant, Zephyr, stands in Sprazzo, that he opened in March of 2012. The city is taking Suyan to court for not paying sales taxes.

The owner of two restaurants in downtown Juneau is facing criminal charges for allegedly failing to pay city sales taxes.

The charges were filed against Haydar Suyun, 51, last week in Juneau District Court.

Suyun is the owner of Zephyr, a Mediterranean restaurant on Seward Street, and Sprazzo, an Italian restaurant and pizzeria on North Franklin Street.

The city’s law department charged him with one count of failing to remit sales tax for Sprazzo, and four counts of failing to remit sales taxes for Zephyr, according to court records. Those are all class ‘A’ misdemeanor offenses which can be punishable by up to a year in prison or a $10,000 fine for each count.

Charging documents did not state how much Suyun owes in taxes, but city officials protested the renewal of Zephyr’s liquor license last week, saying Suyun owed around $15,000 in late sales and property tax. Sprazzo’s license is being protested for its lack of updated sprinkler system inspections and late taxes, which totaled $4,951.60 as of March 1, they said. Zephyr has an outstanding balance of more than $10,000 in property and sales tax, interest and penalties owed to the city, they said.

In the new criminal case, an affidavit filed by Assistant City Attorney August Petropulos states that Suyun filed a sales tax return for Sprazzo for the third quarter of 2012 (July through September 2012), but that no payment was submitted with the return. The city still hasn’t received payment for that period, according to the affidavit.

Similarly, with Zephyr, Suyun filed a sales tax return for the months of January and April 2012, but no payment was made for those periods, documents allege. The affidavit states Suyun also filed a timely tax return for January 2013, but the payment submitted with the filing was returned by the bank for insufficient funds. No payment has been received since that time for that period, according to the affidavit.

When reached by phone on Tuesday, Suyun said he didn’t want to comment since he doesn’t know what’s going on in the case and he doesn’t yet have an attorney. He did say, however, that he was surprised by the amount of media coverage regarding the liquor license matter and now the criminal charges.

“It’s business,” he said. “It’s not like — I haven’t shot anybody or I haven’t stolen from anybody. It’s just business. Sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down.”

City prosecutors say failing to pay city sales taxes is in fact equivalent to theft. They’ve argued in recent cases that business owners do not own the sales tax money since Juneau has a voter-initiated system wherein merchants collect sales tax from purchases on behalf of the city and hold that money in trust until it’s submitted to the city on a quarterly basis.

Suyun is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday to answer to the charges.

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated Suyun also owned Raven’s Café in Imperial Billiard & Bar. Raven’s Café was closed in mid-March, and the space has since been leased out to a new business owner.

• Contact reporter Emily Russo Miller at 523-2263 or at emily.miller@juneauempire.com.

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