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Willoughby Brewing Company closes unexpectedly after failing to pay sales taxes

Company says they will 'be up and running shortly'
Posted at 3:41 PM, Jan 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-09 23:18:20-05

WILLOUGHBY, Ohio — Willoughby Brewing Company was closed Thursday after failing to pay its sales taxes.

People heading to the popular restaurant and brewery found it closed, with a notice posted on the door stating that its vendor’s license is under suspension by order of the Tax Commissioner.

“Looked like it was open, lights are on, and it’s closed, so we’re not going in there,” Frank Conway of Lakewood said.

“I’ve never been here, but people have suggested it, so I was excited to come across and come in,” Colleen Klein of Mentor said.

The Ohio Department of Taxation confirmed that the Willoughby Brewing Company’s vendor license has been suspended.

“I can say that state law allows the Ohio Department of Taxation to ‘post’ businesses for failure to file or pay their sales tax over two consecutive months or three months over a 12 month span,” said Gary Gudmundson Communications Director with the department. “They are suspended from making retail sales until they are in full compliance with their sales tax obligations. I should add: once they are in full compliance, they are free to resume business as usual.”

A representative for the company responded on Instagram: “There was an administerial error that will be corrected. We will be up and running shortly.”

While calls to the brewery were not returned, there were people inside on Thursday evening. The owner responded to a text message from News 5, calling the closure “temporary” and saying he would know a lot more on Friday.

The brewery’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been deactivated.

Several comics who were scheduled to appear at the “Authentic Comedy Night” at Willoughby Brewing Company Thursday night have posted that their show has moved to Beal’s Pickles n Pints in Willoughby.

W. Scott Wene, a comedian, said this was the first show he’d ever produced, so getting a call at 10:30 Thursday morning that he would have to change the venue was “quite a shock.”

The owner, Wene said, told him “that there was an issue that was causing the venue to be shut down, and it didn’t look like it was going to be back opened before tonight, and he was really sorry about it, and I know that they were working hard to get that resolved.”

Wene said the show was planned in early December. He credited the comedians for finding a new venue so quickly. While he’s never performed at Willoughby Brewing Company before, Wene said he’d been a patron there for about 15 years, “and most of those times I remember.” He said he hoped the issue would be resolved quickly.

Willoughby Brewing Company has been around for more than 20 years in Willoughby, serving up craft brews, pub food and frequent community events.

“Seeing this is a total bummer,” said Tyler Sherman, who came from Mentor to visit a nearby restaurant. “Saw it on Facebook today with a whole lot of sad reactions, so I’ve been coming here for a bunch of years. It’s a pretty solid place.”

Mayor Bob Fiala said the city was “hopeful that the owners will pay their taxes quickly and reopen soon.” He said other restaurants told him this type of situation isn’t unusual.

Still, this comes just a few days after nearby Lure Bistro shut down.

“It’s not a trend, it’s a coincidence,” Fiala said, adding that three other businesses have already approached the city and Lure Bistro to take it over.

Willoughby Brewing Company is a mainstay of the downtown area, though, and one the mayor doesn’t want to lose.

“It’s really unfortunate, and even to have the Willoughby Brewing Company shut down, just even for a few days, it’s just not good for the city, so we really need to see this reopen soon,” Fiala said.