Outstanding taxes standing in restaurant’s way

The former Carrie Welton's restaurant on Church Street in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE

The former Carrie Welton’s restaurant on Church Street in Naugatuck. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — A borough man and onetime regular at Carrie Welton’s, the bar and restaurant that closed in May amid bankruptcy proceedings, wants to reopen the Church Street space as a similar restaurant named Flood 55.

Larry Koonz, 44, of Spencer Street, says he cannot get the final signoffs he needs because George Petrakopoulos, who owns the building and ran Carrie Welton’s, owes the borough more than $8,000 in property taxes.

Petrakopoulos and Tax Collector James Goggin signed an agreement in May that would allow him to get permits if he paid $3,000 initially and continued to pay $500 per month once a business begins operating at 66 Church St.

Goggin said he and Petrakopoulos’s attorney, M. Leonard Caine III, had a verbal agreement that the monthly payments would be made regardless of whether a business was operating in that space.

Petrakopoulos and Koonz secured building and electrical permits, but Goggin sent a letter last month to the building department stating that he would not sign off on any further permits because Petrakopoulos has not made any monthly payments.

Petrakopoulos also owes the borough more than $55,000 in real estate taxes on the building he owns, which contains three storefronts. He has not paid any real estate taxes in the seven years since his restaurant moved downtown from Waterbury, records show. He did not return calls this week seeking comment.

Goggin said he would not sign off on any permits now until Petrakopoulos pays his full property tax bill.

Although the amount is much less than the real estate bill, the tax office prioritizes collection of personal property taxes because owners can sell the items, go out of business and reopen as a new company that owes nothing, Goggin said.

“I’m not as worried about the real estate because the real estate will be there,” Goggin said. “Especially with these economic times, we try to work with businesses to make sure we can keep them open.”

Goggin’s collecting power is also limited because Petrakopoulos is in the middle of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“I can’t even file anything against him,” Goggin said. “I can’t go down there and foreclose.”

Petrakopoulos has also moved one of his tenants, Tamara’s Dress Shop, from one storefront to the other without the required certificate of location, which he cannot obtain without Goggin’s sign-off.

 Zoning Enforcement Officer Steven Macary said he is waiting for a return on a certified letter he sent Oct. 16, and he might have to begin fining Petrakopoulos $150 per day if the appropriate permit is not obtained five days later.

Petrakopoulos also owns 78 Church St. under the company name Bebe, Ruby & Una. That property is facing foreclosure from Ohio-based Lloyd Properties, a mortgage holder.

Koonz said he is confident the place would succeed under his leadership, with Petrakopoulos as an employee.

“I’ve got a lot of energy and I’m looking to improve it,” Koonz said. “If we just get it open, the problems will be solved.”