77°Partly Cloudy

Donna’s Debt Increasing On Overdue Meals Tax List

by ARLnow.com December 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm 6,340 48 Comments

The latest version of Arlington’s meals tax delinquency list was released earlier this month and it looks like bad news for chef Roberto Donna.

Donna, whose Galileo III restaurant in D.C. closed in September, now owes Arlington County $167,366.79, up from $150,715.96 in June, according to the list. The debt stems from the failure of Donna’s Bebo Trattoria restaurant in Crystal City, which closed in 2009 amid a mountain of debt and a federal lawsuit. Prior to the closing of Galileo III, Donna had been making small court-ordered payments on his meals tax debt.

(Meals tax delinquencies are often accrued when restaurants collect a required tax on food from customers but then fail to pay the collected funds to Arlington County.)

While the delinquency list includes many restaurants that have gone out of business, some of the establishments on the list are still open. Among them:

  • Extra Virgin in Shirlington: $54,568.51 (down from $65,098.93 in June)
  • Quiznos Subs (various locations): $36,095.49
  • Las Delicias Restaurant in Nauck: $27,422.02 (up from $23,906.53 in June)
  • Caribbean Breeze in Ballston: $22,078.84 (up from $8,419.87 in June)
  • Texas BBQ Factory in Pentagon City: $21,080.85 (up from $8,814.02 in June)
  • Tortoise and Hare Bar & Grille in Crystal City: $16,794.49
  • Village Bistro in Rosslyn: $10,110.26

  • John Fontain

    This is theft, plain and simple. Arrest the principals for theft and I’ll bet those unremitted taxes get paid off in no time flat.

    • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

      “This is theft, plain and simple.”

      Kind of like when the county reaches into our pockets to pay for Artisphere…………

      • AllenB

        Not at all the same.

        • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

          You are right….the county stealing my money to fund Artisphere is far worse !!!

          • AllenB

            Wrong again, but keep trying.

          • Is_Too!

            Wow. Such a well reasoned and illustrated retort…I am not worried about these restaurant owners and their being in the arears with their back taxes. It simply qualifies them to be the Secretary of the Treasury. Good career move!

            If you disagree, AllenB, please say, “Nuh-uhhh!”

          • AllenB

            So you need a detailed reply about why the County collecting taxes from residents and spending that on a project that may not do well financially is completely different than a business owner failing to pay his taxes?

            If you really don’t see the difference, than I guess all you do understand is “Nuh-uhhh.”

          • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

            And they say that irony is lost on your typical internet poster…..Allen, there are some fence posts….well, never mind !!

          • Abe Froman

            So you don’t like the gov’t spending money on programs that don’t work out and aren’t run well.

            So we can expect to see you here stumping for whomever the republicans put forward for president, as well as whomever they run against Jim Webb’s seat in the Senate and Jim Moran’s seat in Congress, because god only knows, they have voted for trillions of dollars in failing economic policies.

    • CrystalMikey

      I agree.

  • BC

    I’m shocked that Caribbean Breeze has done that much in aggregated revenue. The do win the “most coupons available” award however.

    • And

      Not a fan of their food at all, I’m surprised that place is still open.

    • The Gov..

      Eff Carribean Breeze, hate that place, hate their clientele. Maybe it will shut down and all the people who think they are wanna-be-gansters will leave with them.

  • Alex

    I don’t own a resturant nor am I affiliated with one. But what is the point of publicizing this? Is this really “news”?

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      To the extent restaurant openings / closing are “news”, then yes. Historically it seems that restaurants with rapidly increasing tax delinquencies are soon out of business.

    • Um

      Yes. I like to know who is taking my money for taxes then shortchanging our County the funds I paid out.

      Stealing is a completely unacceptable business practice. Bizarre that the County allows anyone to reach the deliquency levels some have achieved. Diners can’t pay it later and the taxes we pay are not loans to float a business till times are better.

      Those who oversee thefts from the County coffers should be charged. If the business that collected these funds won’t then turn them over, shut them down.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      I want to know, because I don’t patronize anyone that is seriously delinquint

  • Rick

    Unless the same group owns all the delinquent Quizno shops, I think it’s unfair to group them together like that.

  • Soarlslacker

    Yes, it is news. You, the restaurant patron, are charged tax. If the restaurants do NOT pay the taxes to the appropriate authorities, the restaurant has also stolen from you. When business do not pay the required taxes and the Cty does not have “sufficient” funds, whose taxes will rise? Your taxes will rise. The theft is from all of us.


    Chapter 65, Arlington County Code
    A tax rate of 4% is charged by the seller for prepared foods sold in Arlington. This tax is levied on all food and beverages, including snack food and alcoholic beverages, whether consumed on or off the premises. There is a 2% food and beverage tax on meals prepared and sold by a restaurant or caterer specifically for use on commercial airlines.

    New restaurants and other food establishments are required to file the Certificate of Registration Form with the Custodial Tax Division before the commencement of business. This tax is collected by the seller, and remitted to the County along with the Meals Tax Filing Form on the 20th of each month and shall cover the taxes required to be collected by the seller during the previous calendar month.

    Please call the Business Tax Division at 703-228-3060 with any questions you have about this tax.
    Are we too lazy to use the Internet as well? It took under 30 seconds to find this info.

    • Burger

      Please. Relax, chief. The total listed amounts to less than $1 million – which couldn’t even fund a dog park or about 8 hours to run the city government so please spare me.

      They haven’t stolen anything from you. The county isn’t going to come knock on your door and wonder where the sales tax you paid to a Donna restaurant is. Your reasoning would be similar to those that never paid “use” tax when buying something on-line would be considered theft.

      I have no fear that the county will get its money one way or the other via tax lien when property is sold off or he wants to do create another restaurant in Arlington. They’ll get the money.

      • Oddball

        Actually they have stolen directly from the patrons. And Donna has so many other delinquencies from DC and Arlington -as well as millions ofr dollars owed to staff and suppliers he failed to pay that I doubt Arlington county will ever see the money. While he lords it in his mansion in MacLean.

      • Arlington Voter

        By your logic, I guess I should stop paying my taxes. Meanwhile, I expect to maintain all my current levels of county services. You don’t mind covering for me, do you?

        • Um


  • Rob G

    People should always pay their taxes. It’s the law. But what if, as a business owner, you’re faced with either owing back taxes or firing 2 employees who you know will have a very difficult time finding another job? Is the answer that Arlington County will look after them? Raise taxes again to help the unemployed…more businesses fire people…raise taxes again….businesses declare bankruptcy…raise taxes again due to “revenue shortfalls”. You get the picture.

    Perhaps we’re already at the point where these taxes have become an undue burden?

    • Arlingtoon

      I’m not sure there’s much of a “burden” involved in forwarding tax revenue to the County that you’ve already collected from your patrons.

      These guys have been collecting taxes from us, and then spending the money instead of remitting it to the County, on who’s behalf it was collected. Where I come from that’s called stealing.

      • Burger

        More than likely they are thinking they can pay off the vendors first to remain open so they can eventually pay off their taxes.

        I mean, I guess you could pay off Arlington County but if you have no food or liquor or employees – it is going to be hard to stay in business.

        • TCE

          … except the money they are collecting from you for the tax is not for paying off the help or paying other bills. Sales tax has nothing to do with operating expense… it’s costs the owner nothing… you the client are paying it and he’s suppose to pass it on to the County.

    • Suburban Not Urban

      Fire the employees – its called a buisness – its not like the gov’t where you can leach off the taxpayer indefinitetly

      • Zoning Victim

        Yeah, tax the businesses until they can’t afford to pay their employees and have to fire them, then pay those people not to work and pay to provide them affordable housing out of the tax revenues. That’s progressive economics for you.

        • TCE

          A) the sales tax is not a tax on the business but a tax on the client buying the food… B) the money for the tax should pass from the client through the owner to the County… it therefore has no impact on the business being taxed too much and not affording their bills.

          Now if you want to complain about paying a food tax in the first place as a client or other taxes that the business might have that’s different… but not passing the food tax money that they collected on to the County is outright theft pure and simple.

  • charlie

    agreed. arrest them. you think he has any plans to pay us?

    i can’t believe some people don’t see this as THEFT. I go to the restaurant and pay the meals and sales tax to them. This money is to be turned over to Arlington County. Period. It isn’t. It is theft.

    Come one O’Leary, get the boys from South Boston out there and get this money!!

    • Tabby

      Agree with you and others who said this.

  • Tabby

    Good to see that P. Brennan’s is off the list.

  • Tabby

    You can’t be a great business person and a great chef.

    Donna needs to hand over money- and business-related ‘ickiness” to someone smart and honest. You think a lot of the brilliant chefs who have also done very well do it all themselves? H— no. Usually it’s because there’s a savvy and reliable spouse or general manager running the place behind the scenes.

  • John Andre

    What’s this??? Arlington restaurants collect this VERY STIFF restaurant sales tax from us patrons…then pocket the money themselves rather than turning it over to the County???

    Geez…we can build a lot of trolley lines or subsidize the Artisphere with that money!!!

  • Frank Lyon

    Oh well, a tax dodger. The real problem is our big-spending, back-patting county board. One party rule doesn’t work, whether republican or democrat.

    • Charle

      Yep. And it is about to get worse. If Bondi is elected it will put the final step in place –The Zimmie Board — with Bondi doing what he tells her to. wAKE UP PEOPLE

      • Tabby


        Her robocall came through today on my cell in the middle of my work day (3 pm, not even lunchtime). Versus Libby Garvey, who picked up the phone herself and was very polite.

    • Charle

      Oh yeah, Bondi will understand because she hasn’t paid a single tax EVER inArlington. She doesn’t own real estate and never registered her car here (she did have a car once)

      • Always Right

        Sounds like the typical candidate that the Arlington Residents love to elect.

  • Arlingtron

    It’s amazing how much can be owed. At only 4% you can do the math and see that these places collect a huge amount of revenue. It’s a shame they can’t pay the tax they already collected. Not knowing their operating expense either they are running at very tight margins (poor business practice) or greedy (criminal). Arlington should never let them get this deep in the hole. If this tax, some of which is paid by people passing through, is not collected the county will raise taxes elsewhere.

  • Zoning Victim

    I love the way the county levies a huge tax on their businesses that sell food for immediate consumption and makes the restaurants and stores collect it for the county at their own expense and then everybody is surprised when they can’t pay it because they’re not making a profit. This is a gross tax, which means that the business may be losing money and still owe a huge tax bill. This is a great recipe for crushing small businesses and preventing people who might open a small business from doing it in Arlington.

    This tax is also in addition to the state sales tax of 5%, 1% of which is for the locality. So 9% of what you are willing to pay for a meal in a restaurant is swiped by the government. Even worse, if an establishment adds a tip or service charge of more than 20% to your bill, the amount you tipped is supposed to be taxed at the 4% rate. Understand that for what it is, in a hypothetical situation where you tip an extra 5% to the servers over what you should be tipping for good service because you had a large party, and the business has to pay an extra tax on the entire 25% for which the business collected no money; then, the server(s) pay income tax on top of that.

    Furthermore, this tax does not operate like the state sales tax, which by law is a separate line item on your receipt on top of the cost of your meal; so don’t keep calling for these people to be arrested for stealing because they collected the 4% tax from you and then didn’t pay it to the county. That’s completely untrue; the county simply told them they had to pay another 4% tax on their gross receipts for meals, food and beverage.

    All of that is on top of the business license tax and the business tangible personal property tax, which is 5% of the assessed value of your equipment every year. So every stove, oven, fryer, table, chair, cup, plate…. you get the drift; it’s all taxed at 5% of it’s assessed value whether you make any money or not.

    That’s just sales tax; meals, food and beverage tax; business tangible personal property and business license taxes. The owners still have a huge amount of taxes, fees and mandatory insurance to pay for on top of those. All of this is before you make any money at all.

    Judging from what I read on this board, it isn’t just the Arlington County Board that is anti-business, it’s about 70% of the jerks who live here, too. Yeah, tax ’em all even if they don’t make a single penny in profit and throw ’em in jail and tell them to terminate their employees if they can’t pay; really smart.

  • Terry

    Does this mean when (or more accurately IF since I have never been to any of these places anyway) I go to these restaurants, I can refuse to pay the tax since the owners are just going to pocket the money anyway?

    • Zoning Victim

      Obviously, you didn’t read my rather long-winded post, haha. You are not paying the meal, food and beverage tax any more than you are paying the owner’s income tax.

      • John Fontain

        You are incorrect about this. Go buy a hamburger at McDonald’s and look at your receipt.

        • Zoning Victim

          You are correct; further reading shows that the County Code does require that they are to state the tax separately. I love the fact that it takes six pages to describe this “simple” tax. I don’t know how small stores are even supposed to figure out what to tax and what not to. For anyone without a completely computerized system, it’d be pretty difficult to figure out.

          For restaurants that want to minimize the taxes they pay, they should reduce the bill by 20% and charge a 20% service charge. As long as they don’t go over 20%, the service charge is not taxed the 4%. Better yet, you could sell all of your meals through a vending machine and skip paying the taxes altogether.

  • SamsontheCat

    Does the county have a plan for collecting this money? Just saying that we can’t make them pay the money because it would hurt the business and/or cause them to fire someone isn’t feasible. Likewise for some of these businesses paying off the lump sum could cause them to shutter their doors and fire their staff, and while that might be the cold justice of the law I doubt Arlington Co. wants to have a shuttered storefronts lining its streets or do anything to take away from its ability to be featured in news stories about how the area is bucking the national jobless trend.

    Go to the businesses and ask them the amount they can commit to pay over the next 3, 6, 12 months, whatever timeframe seems reasonable. In return the county won’t go to the courts to demand the money. If they fail to pay, they get hit with an aditional penalty.

    • Zoning Victim

      “… we can’t make them pay the money because it would hurt the business and/or cause them to fire someone isn’t feasible.”

      Why not? We do it for income taxes. It’d probably help you the restaurant community quite a bit if they could at least become profitable before the county starts hacking at their bottom line.

      They charge a 10% penalty if you don’t pay and make the offenders pay accrued interest of 10% per year. They also make habitual offenders put up a bond.


Subscribe to our mailing list