The future of a landmark Dawson County eatery is in doubt after the Georgia Department of Revenue seized the Dawsonville Pool Room at lunchtime Wednesday.
The seizure stems from nearly $84,000 in unpaid taxes and fees, according to a notice posted on the front door of the downtown restaurant.
Employees and patrons said agents arrived at the Pool Room about noon Wednesday, ordered everyone out and took possession of the property.
The posted notice lists delinquent taxes totaling $43,612 dating back to April 2008. Another $40,000 is owed in penalties, interest and collection fees.
Gordon Pirkle, who has owned the Pool Room since the mid-1960s, was out of town at a funeral when authorities seized the restaurant and changed the locks on the doors.
Reached by phone later in the day, Pirkle said he had been working with the state to resolve the tax issue.
“I’m kind of shocked, because we’ve been working with them to get this resolved,” he said. “The last time we heard from them, they said we were down to about $30,000 we owed.”
Pirkle said the problems stem from issues he had with former accountant Warren Pennington.
In 2010, Pennington was found guilty on several felony theft counts in connection with funneling client funds intended to pay income tax liabilities.
“We know we had money set aside to pay the taxes and Warren was supposed to be paying them,” Pirkle said. “We found some that we thought had been paid. We’ve been trying to work that all out.”
Pirkle said the state agents “took all the money from two register drawers and cleaned out the video gaming machines.” His current accountant is reviewing the case to determine how to proceed.
Jud Seymour, communications director for the Department of Revenue, said the next step would be for Pirkle to begin negotiations and maybe “set up a payment plan or an offer in compromise.”
“Once a compromise happens, they would be able to reopen the business,” he said.
Seymour acknowledged the Pool Room’s legacy and presence in the Dawsonville community.
“I understand it’s a pretty big deal up there,” he said.
A Dawsonville institution, the Pool Room pays homage to native son and NASCAR champion Bill Elliott, with news clippings lining the walls. There are also Ford front bumpers suspended from the ceiling and a tire from Elliott’s 1985 Southern 500 victory sitting next to the register.
For Pirkle, the outpouring of support from the community Wednesday was overwhelming.
“My phone has been ringing all day,” he said. “I appreciate all the support me and my family (have) received.”
The state is giving Pirkle the chance to return to the restaurant today to clear any perishable food from coolers.
Still, he’s concerned about his employees and the business.
“All together, this puts about 12 people out of work,” he said. “Plus having to close for even a few days or a week will kill you.”