Store owner operating with revoked license seeks to pay sales taxes to PB

A man who identified himself Thursday as the owner of the SOS Express convenience store and deli at 2010 Ridgway Road visited Pine Bluff City Collector Albert Ridgell early Friday seeking to determine just how much he owed the city in hamburger sales tax collections at his business.

A day before, the man — who refused to provide his name — told The Commercial he was unaware that his city business license had been revoked. He also said he had given a check to Ridgell about three weeks ago to cover his tax debt.

He said he couldn’t remember the check’s amount and had no intentions of paying any additional money to the city.

Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotions Director Bob Purvis, who oversees collection of the city’s 2-percent sales tax at restaurants and 3-percent levy at hotels, said that records indicated the store had not remitted collections over 42 months and owed the city “a conservatively estimated” $3,885.66.

The man’s name was not immediately available Friday. Meanwhile, SOS Express is still in operation.

Stanley Walker — owner of Aisha’s Fish and Chicken, a restaurant that is operating at 1106 West 16th Avenue although its business license also has apparently been revoked — said Thursday night that he believes authorities are pursuing him because he is black and a son of Alderwoman Thelma Walker, whom he said is often in disagreement with Mayor Debe Hollingsworth.

Stanley Walker — who Purvis figures is between $3,000 and $5,000 in tax arrears — said he feels he’s being “singled out” and “harassed” because Hollingsworth may be racially prejudiced and “doesn’t like my mother.”

When advised of Walker’s accusations, Hollingsworth said she focuses on “right and wrong, not black and white” and declined further comment.

Plans were discussed in a Tuesday meeting for police to cite Walker on Wednesday for violating a city ordinance stating that a daily fine of $500 shall be imposed on any person or entity continuing to operate a business after its license is revoked. Walker contacted Ridgell and offered a settlement on his taxes early Wednesday. Purvis rejected the offer but the ticketing of Walker did not occur.

Walker said he was contacted after the meeting — by a person he refused to name — and advised of the situation.

The meeting was attended by Hollingsworth, Purvis, Ridgell, senior Alderman Bill Brumett, City Treasurer Greg Gustek, City Attorney Althea Hadden-Scott, Finance Director Steve Miller, Internal Auditor Gina Devers and police Capt. Kelvin Hadley.

Walker said his source told him that Hollingsworth said in the meeting that she wanted to see Walker and two others, who Walker said are also black, be “made examples of” in the city’s collecting of delinquent tax revenues.

“That made me mad,” Walker said.

A Commercial reporter who attended the meeting did not hear any such statements from the mayor.

Efforts to contact Walker on Friday were unsuccessful.