Poppies popped by Department of Revenue over taxes | AspenTimes.com

Poppies popped by Department of Revenue over taxes

Naomi Havlen
Aspen Times Staff Writer

A "Seized" sign, placed by the IRS, can be seen in the window of Poppies Bistro Cafe on Thursday, August 1, 2002. The restaurant was recently closed by the IRS for non payment of back wages and taxes. Nicholas Saucier photo.

Poppies Bistro Cafe was seized by the Colorado Department of Revenue on Wednesday for allegedly not paying over $7,000 in state taxes.

According to signs posted on the restaurant’s windows on Wednesday, the seizure of the business was “for delinquent sales and wage withholding taxes” from January of this year to May. The signs say Poppies’ assets will be sold at auction on Aug. 13 at 11 a.m. to the “highest and best bidder.”

“Basically, [Poppies’ owner Michael Hull] wasn’t giving the state the sales tax he collected on his food,” said Sandra Lowman, a public information officer with the Department of Revenue in Denver. “And withholding taxes are what he should have been paying toward his employees on their W-2s.”

Lowman said the Department of Revenue had been trying to reach Hull for several weeks by leaving phone messages and sending notices by mail. The department received no response to the repeated attempts, she said.

“We were unable to contact this business, and that was it,” Lowman said. “Normally if we’re talking to someone and they say they don’t have the money, we can establish a payment plan. We’re happy to do that.”

The restaurant at 834 W. Hallam Street is now state property, Lowman said. According to the Department of Revenue, Poppies is run by Wild Oats Inc., which is not connected to the food retail chain of the same name.

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Hull could not be reached for comment. The answering machine at the restaurant delivered the following message:

“Considering the world’s situation, we will reopen. But we’re not going to give you a specific date, so we appreciate you calling.”

The Aug. 13 auction will be held inside the restaurant, in order to sell items like chairs, tables and grills.

Lowman did say that Hull told a representative from the revenue department that he could have the owed money for the department “by tomorrow.” If Hull can give the department the owed taxes before Aug. 13, Lowman said Hull would be able to retain his business.

Lowman said she was told that Poppies closed in May at the end of the ski season and did not reopen for business this summer. No one was available to confirm this, though.

Hull was in the local news last winter when the Aspen Liquor Licensing Board suspended Poppies’ liquor license for three days the week before Christmas. The restaurant was ticketed after it reportedly served liquor for more than three and a half months without a valid license.

The restaurant, a popular, high-end bistro, had been in business since 1981.

[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com]