PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) – Petersburg is seeing an increase in the number of business owners who owe back taxes to the city. In order to get people to pay up the city is shutting down repeat offenders and going after those who owe large amounts.
According to city records the Travelodge Motel on East Washington Street owes $29,602.23 in back taxes, the Knights Inn on Wythe Street owes $13,759.86 and the Econo Lodge on Winfield Road owes $28,735.45.
Over the weekend the city shutdown the Econo Lodge -- telling the owner her business can re-open when she pays her bill.
"They put a big sign on my motel and it's a franchise -- we lose customers. I feel they can't do that this is my privacy.... (Nicole Bell: But you didn't pay your taxes?) .... I don't pay because of the economy. I don't pay," said the owner of the Econo Lodge, Sudha Amin.
The city says guests staying at the Econo Lodge and other similar establishments that have been shutdown can finish out their paid stay. Guests say the closure is impacting service.
"I can't even get toilet tissue and wash clothes. How ridiculous is this," said one Econo Lodge guest.
Petersburg City Treasurer, Kevin Brown, says if taxes aren't paid services to citizens could be impacted.
"We're trying to get everyone into compliance so we can generate more revenue so we can provide more services to the residents of Petersburg," said Brown.
Some business owners who are delinquent haven't paid property taxes, meal taxes and even lodging taxes in years.
"We put up a distress warrant, we place them outside the business, we also lock the door of the business and we take the key," said Brown.
Business owners could face criminal charges if they re-open before paying the city. Several business owners, who were put on notice over the weekend, showed up at the treasurer's office Tuesday morning to work out a payment arrangement.
The city treasurer says shutting down a business is a last resort and that the city is always willing to work with business owners to help keep them in compliance.