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City seeks options for businesses that owe excise taxes

ALBANY, Ga. — Public records obtained by The Albany Herald suggest that more than $14,000 is owed to the city of Albany by businesses that pour liquor by the drink.

Under Georgia law, cities can charge an excise tax on drinks poured by local bars or restaurants. The tax doesn’t apply to beer or wine and isn’t applicable to package stores.

But according to the records obtained by The Herald Monday, seven Albany bars or restaurants owe $14,324.37 in delinquent excise taxes.

City Manager James Taylor said Monday that the city is weighing its options on how best to collect the money owed. Taylor admitted that there are some challenges to handling the situation.

“I’ve been told by our attorney that we can’t take their alcohol license or business license without going through the same procedure we went through a couple of weeks ago with the other clubs,” Taylor said. “So short of taking them to court and spending way more than $14,000, we’re at a bit of a standstill.”

The procedure Taylor is referring to was the tedious task of holding public hearings with the principals of a handful of local clubs to determine whether the Albany City Commission should non-renew the alcohol licenses of the clubs based on a perception that the establishments were a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the community.

One of the clubs under scrutiny then, Club Xscape, is on the delinquent excise taxpayer list, reportedly owing $3,813 in unpaid taxes, one of the highest on the list.

The number listed on Xscape’s business license for Tim Shelton, the club owner, had been assigned to someone else, according to the person who answered the line Monday.

Taylor said the numbers listed in the report given to The Herald under the Georgia Freedom of Information Act may not be completely accurate in some cases because some may be based on previous monthly reports of drinks poured by the various establishments. But the city manager added that notice of the delinquency had been given to all of the businesses on the list and none had challenged the accuracy of the numbers.

Some on the list, like Cask and Kilt — which is believed to owe $2,500 — have closed and the likelihood of them paying anything back is remote, Taylor said.

Others like Xscape, L’Jua’s and Yesterday’s Lounge each owe money and, for now, continue to pour.

Lajuana Woods, the former owner of L’Jua’s, was booked into the Dougherty County Jail and released June 20 on a $7,000 bond after being charged with defrauding the city of more than $4,600 through the issuance of a bad check to the city treasurer’s office. The charge is a felony.

Part of the fee that Woods was attempting to pay, according to city officials, was the $1,995.03 in delinquent excise taxes owed by her restaurant. The city has since foreclosed on the property and has taken legal action to dispossess Woods and her staff from the property.