[UPDATE] Owner of Tallahassee Restaurant Arrested

By: Eyewitness News, Julie Montanaro Email
By: Eyewitness News, Julie Montanaro Email

UPDATED 8.29.2011 5:30pm by Julie Montanaro

Court records show Jeffrey Merimee has already posted bond and has been released from the Leon County Jail.

Florida's Department of Revenue investigated the case against Mermiee. It will not comment on what is now a criminal case, DOR spokeswoman Renee Watters said.

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UPDATED 8.29.2011 1:30pm by Julie Montanaro

An attorney for former Famous Dave's franchise owner Jeffrey Merimee says Merimee has been cooperating with state revenue agents, but right now simply does not have the money to pay back the $167,000 he owes in taxes.

David Joffe is representing Merimee. "We intend to pay back all of the sales tax. We are trying to gather the money. We hope to resolve this once BP pays this claim," Joffe said.

Joffe said Merimee filed a claim with BP for losses at his Famous Dave's restaurant in Pensacola, but that claim is still pending. Joffe says he is not representing Merimee in the claims process and could not comment further on any specifics.

Joffe said Merimee drove down from his home in Kentucky this weekend to surrender. Joffe says he always intended to pay and "still intends to pay."

Joffe says "We'll just have to see what happens" with the criminal charges."

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[UPDATE] 8-29 Noon by Julie Montanaro

The owner and operator of Famous Dave's in Tallahassee is now in trouble with the law. The popular BBQ restaurant shut its doors last month, and this weekend, Jeffrey Merimee turned himself in to face felony charges.

Famous Dave's has been in the headlines all summer for its financial woes as employees and vendors alike complained about not being paid. Now, it's the state of Florida that wants its money.

The Florida Department of Revenue says owner and operator Jeffrey Merimee failed to pay more than $166,000 in sales tax between June of 2010 and April of this year.

Arrest papers say Merimee told state revenue agents that he used that sales tax money to keep his restaurant afloat both here and in Pensacola.

Arrest papers say he blames the financial troubles on the BP Gulf Oil Spill.

Merimee made his first appearance in court this morning. Bond is set at 100,000 dollars. We are trying to reach Merimee's attorney for a comment right now.

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[UPDATE] 8-29 11am -

The owner of a popular Tallahassee restaurant, that was recently shut down, has now been arrested.

Jeffery Merimee, owner and operator of the now-closed Famous Dave's restaurant in Tallahassee, was arrested on August 28 for failure to remit state sales tax.

Stay with WCTV for more on this story.

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[UPDATE] 7-21 6pm -

Famous Dave's is officially closed and tonight, they made it official on their Facebook page. However, the owners were supposed to move all of its signage from its Tallahassee store by today---but at last check, nothing has been moved.

Signs of Tax Lien and warning to pay rent are on the doors of the former restaurant tonight 7/21. One of the signs says that the equipment inside of the building has tax liens for more than 9,000 dollars.

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[UPDATE] 7-20 3pm - By: Deneige Broom

The troubles for a local Famous Dave's restaurant have seemingly peaked. The Famous Dave's in Tallahassee has until July 21st to remove all signage from the property.

Eric Missen, the Vice President of Marketing for Famous Dave's corporate office, says earlier this month, they revoked all franchise rights from the Tallahassee location.

Missen says the restaurant was no longer meeting the Famous Dave’s corporate standards.

If the restaurant choses to re-open under a different name, Missen says Famous Dave's will monitor the new menu to make sure its items don't resemble those of the franchise.

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UPDATE 6-30

WCTV has gotten word that Famous Dave's has a sign on the door that explains they are closed for remodeling.

We called numerous times and no one picked up the phone.

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UPDATE 6-22-2011 by Jill Chandler at 5:42 pm-

According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations Website Famous Dave's license was officially revoked on June 15th. The official reason was because they owed back taxes.

Charles Cyrus was dining at Famous Dave's on Wednesday. He said, "Its a down atmosphere. I'm thinking about people who are not working... not just the ones here in Tallahassee, but distributors, and anyone associated with distributors."

Other customers we spoke to shared the same sentiment.

To view the document click on the tab above.

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UPDATE 05-31-2011 by Jerry Askin at 6:30pm

A local restaurant that's been making headlines for not paying their bills may be turning around for the better.

We talked to the restaurant manager at the Famous Dave's on Capital Circle Northeast in Tallahassee today. He says all employees have now been paid up to date and no food items have been removed from their menu.

"I was disappointed in the past to hear that employees weren't being paid. It's something that really needs to be taken care of because with our economy the way it is today, employees need to be paid," says Shondra Pritchett, a Famous Dave's customer.

We asked the manager if they'd paid all of their debts owed to other companies, including their utilities bill and lawn service fees. He declined to comment.

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(UPDATE) by Danielle Sommerfeld 5/7/2011 7:48pm

Thursday night a member of their kitchen staff walked off the job saying he hasn't been paid in a month.

WCTV is working to follow up on this story. On Friday, we were told the General Manager Jason Walker is the only person who can comment, but was not available.

Walker was in today, but he will not confirm or deny what happened and says the only person who can now comment is the store owner who is in Kentucky.

We have tried to contact him and are waiting for a response.

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UPDATE 5:08pm

Famous Dave's seems to be operating business as usual, despite their kitchen staff walking off the job last night.

WCTV followed up on the story, and no one at the restaurant could comment.

The manager says the only person that can comment is the General Manager who is off Friday. Staff at Famous Dave's also say they are not speaking until things get resolved with payments, which they say could be in the next few days.

(UPDATE) by Amy Long 5/5/2011 10:11pm

Jason Gardner walked off his 5 o'clock shift Thursday night (5/5).

He says he's been working hard for a month and a half, even picking up shifts of other co-workers who've quit, and he has has yet to see a penny.

Gardner says the owner tells him nearly everyday, he will see his paycheck of around 700 dollars "tomorrow".

Gardner says he's taking matters into his own hands.

"We need our money. We don't work for free, and we've been keeping the business running for a month and a half without any paycheck. I'm fed up! I'm sorry, there's nothing else I can do. If you're not answering my phone calls." says Gardner.

The owner of Famous Dave's says the oil spill is to blame for his unpaid bills.

The manager on duty said the situation will be taken care of, but did not give any details of when or how that will happen.
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A warrant for collection of delinquent sales and use tax issued to Famous Dave's by the Florida Department of Revenue is attached above. The warrant states that Famous Dave's owed $122,341.65.

[UPDATE] by Lanetra Bennett 4-28 6:53pm

The owner of Famous Dave's Bar-B-Que in Tallahassee says the oil spill is to blame for unpaid bills and money owed to vendors.

The owner says Famous Dave's was forced to delay some vendor payments while awaiting the clearance of a BP oil claim check from Pensacola.

A spokesperson says the check from BP was for a half-million dollars.

On Monday, a man who mows the lawn for the restaurant stood outside of Famous Dave's with a sign letting everyone know that the restaurant bounced a three-thousand dollar check to him.

Famous Dave's Spokesman Kevin Cate said, "He's been paid in full, as will all our vendors. It's important for us to maintain our solid reputation in town and serve the best bar-b-que this side of the Mississippi."

Cate says the situation was explained to the vendors who were effected by the payment delay.

He says the one-man protest and recent talks of non-critical violation citations has not hurt restaurant staff or business.

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[UPDATE] 4-28 Noon -

Statement from Jeff Merimee, owner, Famous Dave’s Tallahassee franchise:

“Unfortunately, we were recently forced to delay some vendor payments while awaiting the clearance of a BP oil claim check from Pensacola. As explained to each of our local vendors, we are 100% committed to making all payments in full, and continuing to serve the best pit BBQ in Tallahassee."

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Updated at: 3:00 p.m. on April 26, 2011 by Deneige Broom

Robby Clark says Famous Dave's paid him the money they owed him, on the evening of Monday, April 25, after he stood outside of the business with his sign.

Clark says he has no hard feelings toward the employees and that he doesn't wish any harm on the business.

Clark says he just wanted the money he was owed.

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Tallahassee, FL -April 26, 2011- By: Deneige Broom

A business owner's complaints against Famous Dave's has brought more information about the restaurant to light.

Talgov.com says the business has outstanding utility charges of $24,120.65.

On January 13, 2011, the restaurant was cited during an inspection for four critical violations and four non-critical violations.

The violations are listed below and on the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's website.

Two of the critical violations include expired employee training and no hand washing sign by an employee sink. The latter was corrected on site.

Two of non-critical violations involve clean, serving utensils
not being stored properly.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's website says critical violations are "those that, if not corrected, are more likely to contribute directly to food contamination, illness or environmental damage."

The following has been taken directly from the department's website, https://www.myfloridalicense.com/

Violations:
A summary of the violations found during the inspection are listed below.

The department cites violations of Florida's sanitation and safety laws, which are based on the standards of U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Food Code.

In general, critical violations are those that, if not corrected, are more likely to contribute directly to food contamination, illness or environmental damage. Although we use the industry-standard term "critical", varying degrees of severity and potential risk to the public require inspectors to assess each situation in determining the appropriate action.

In addition, while an establishment may have multiple violations, the inspectors' training and judgment formulate the overall result of the inspection to ensure the public health and safety.

While most establishments correct all violations in a timely manner (often during the inspection), the division's procedures are designed to compel compliance with all violations through follow-up visits, administration action or closure when necessary.

Violation Observation

02-26-1 Critical. Working containers of food removed from original container not identified by common name; bulk containers of flour and sugar?

02-26-1 Critical. Working containers of food removed from original container not identified by common name; brown sugar in store room.

10-01-1 In-use utensil in non potentially hazardous food not stored with handle above top of food within a closed container; flour.

24-07-1 Cleaned and sanitized equipment, utensils, linens or single-service not properly stored; ice paddle on top off machine.

24-07-1 Cleaned and sanitized equipment, utensils, linens or single-service not properly stored; large spoons at expo area need to be inverted. Corrected On Site.

29-11-1 Observed leaking pipe at plumbing fixture; hand sink by walk in cooler.

32-15-1 Critical. No hand washing sign provided at a hand sink used by food employees; bar. Corrected On Site.

53B-07-1 Critical. Expired employee training.

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By: Jerry Askin

Robby Clark stood in front of Famous Dave's barbecue on Capital Circle North East Monday holding a huge sign saying "Famous Dave's wrote me a bad check!"

Clark says he mows the lawn at the restaurant and they've been late paying him recently. He says the last check the restaurant wrote him for $3,000 actually bounced and he wants his money.

Clark says, "After contacting the owner, I felt satisfied that he was wiring me the money and he didn't, and now he won't accept my phone calls and people in Tallahassee need to know whose doing what to who."

We went inside to get a comment from management, but they declined to comment. Clark says he's not cutting their grass again until he gets his money.


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