City Desk

Even More on Murky Coffee

The Capitol Hill Current Voice of The Hill reports that "Murky Coffee owes the District 427,395 in unpaid sales tax dating back to November 2004." This information comes courtesy of Natalie Wilson of the city's Office of Tax and Revenue. The new number puts Murky Cafe owner Nick Cho's debt at almost twice that of what was reported here on Feb. 27.

For those with an unquenchable fascination with the ins and outs of the Capitol Hill Murky demise, here's an e-mail interview with tax office Deputy General Counsel William Bowie:

1)How did Murky Coffee get to this point?

Answer: While I cannot provide you with specific taxpayer information, generally a seizure will take place if a taxpayer ignores tax deficiency notices we send them, fail to submit financial information to determine if they can maintain a payment plan, fail to meet with us to discuss the tax situation and fail to stay current on there tax obligations while discussing there delinquent situation, then they are candidates for a seizure. Also, if it involves delinquent sales tax for multiple periods they will also be candidates for a seizure.

2) What prompted you to move on Murky now? It's been a couple of years, right?

See answer for #1

3)What are Murky's options?

Answer: Pay the outstanding sales tax delinquency.

4) Will the Murky in Arlington be effected? Why or why not?

Answer: We have the option of pursuing the assets of a delinquent taxpayer wherever they may be. There is a legal process for doing this and this is an option we would look at executing.

5) What will happen to the property if owner Nick Cho is unable to pay?

Answer: If the taxpayer fails to pay the liability the seized assets owned by the taxpayer will be auctioned.

6) Did Cho receive any sort of warning on the morning of the seizure?

Answer: Before we seize taxpayer assets they generally will receive multiple notices and calls warning them of the consequences for failing to come into tax compliance.

7) Cho's place was raided around 10 a.m. on a Tuesday. Is it usual practice to do this sort of thing during business hours? Why or why not?

Answer: If the establishment is open during normal work hours then that is when we will do the seizure. We have commenced doing some seizures of businesses that are only open after normal business hours. i.e., nightclubs, restaurants only open for dinner.

8) Cho said, "It's like when you get caught speeding, was i speeding? Yes. Does this feel like bullshit? Yes." What's your take on his angst?

Answer: If a taxpayer knows he owes us sales tax monies, receives notices of such and still fails to make arrangements to pay, then they should know what the probable outcome will be. Sales tax monies are monies the merchant hold in trust for payment to DC government. Those monies are used to pay for city services. The merchant has no right to spend those monies for their own purposes. It is against the law.

9) How common is all this?

Answer: Unfortunately, as business tax delinquencies increase, particularly for failure to pay sales tax, our tax seizures will increase.

–Rend Smith

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  • Ronny M

    It's a shame when a locally owned business closes shop because of the stupidity of its owner or owners. He had plenty of opportunity to resolve this issue, but he chose not to do it. This is no way to run a business, in DC or elsewhere. Loyal Murky Customers are gonna be hurt because I doubt there will be another coffee shop that isn't a Starbucks.

  • Matthew Brinski

    What's a shame is how people draw instant conclusions such as the one above. It is not known what type of opportunities were available to Mr. Cho to reconcile this problem, nor if the opportunities were communicated in "plenty". Mistakes occur. Miscommunication and lack of timely commmunication occurs.

    Was there negligence? Yes. However, that does not mean that Mr. Cho's actions were intentional, malicious, or without regard for his customers and employees.

    This blog interview is ludicrous. It in no way explains anything specific to Mr. Cho's case. It's basically several generalized and canned statements from the side of the tax office deputy - No journalistic value whatsoever.

  • Mike Licht

    No journalistic value whatsoever?

    Q and A with a named government official?

    Matthew my friend, you need to reconsider your concept of journalism.

  • Former Murky Employee?

    It may seem to the public that Mr. Cho is being evasive and cavalier about the demise (and possible future) of his Capitol Hill outlet. And guess what? He's giving the same ambiguous answers and shrug-of-the-shoulders attitude to the employees of his now-defunct business! We employees were what kept Murky what it was for the neighborhood: a fun, welcoming place "where everybody knows your name." We miss our loyal customers, we miss the families we saw every weekend, and we miss the comraderie we felt with each other behind the bar and with our neighbors who became our second families!

    We got hoodwinked by this man, too! And the answers and reasons we have been given have been just as disappointing for us as well. I don't know if I have a job at Murky, but I do know that I miss the customers. So if any of our regulars are reading this, please know that the baristas do care about what is happening. We have been victimized the same way you and the DC Government have!

  • murky

    I posted a response on our website to many of the issues raised.

    -Nick Cho

  • Hector

    Get your Murky while you can in Arlington, since they are next to close.

  • orenda

    Hi former Murky Employee,

    I lived in DC last year in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and came to really enjoy my conversations with you guys almost every day, particularly during your smoke breaks outside once it turned to spring. You were great, provided a great atmosphere, and I miss it.

    You should also know that I've heard folks in NYC (at Grumpy Coffee) talking about this. Word gets around. Come up here!

  • Bucky Katt

    It seems to me that there are two separate issues--the tax issue, and the eviction notice--so even if the tax issue is eventually resolved, it still looks bad for ol' Murky. Which is greatly disappointing, since mochas at other coffee establishments now seem . . . let's be generous and say that they're less sophisticated at other places than they were at Murky.

    As far as Nick Cho's "rebuttal" on the Murky website, I find it totally believable that things at the DC Tax Office are completely fracked up, but at the same time, maybe he should have invested in a better accounting system .

  • Marva

    To Former Murky Employee,

    We miss you too.

  • Reggie

    I too am a former Murky Employee. Though I don't necessarily echo all of the sentiments of my former colleague up above. Does this whole thing suck like a Hoover? You betcha. Could it have been avoided? Obviously. Have answers been hard to come by? Most definitely.

    But don't hand me this "victimized" crap. The families that lost their homes in the Mt. Pleasant apartment that went up in flames last week are victims, we just happened to get stuck in the middle of an effed up situation. Plain and simple. Shoot, I'm already working elsewhere.

    Also, trashing Nick anonymously on a website? How passive-aggressive. Look, there's my name right there. I've got nothing to hide. Do you?

  • Alice Williamson

    It would go a long way for the regular customers to know that the staff from Murky are being taken care of. These folks have kicked started our mornings (and our wireless connections) for quite a while. I hope there is some severance.

    And it's obvious there is a lot of blame to go around, but all businesses pay monthly sales taxes. It's a no brainer. And the only way to deal with OTR is persistently and in person. A terribly hard lesson to learn, but dealing with their incredibly messy house has always been a challenge.

    We'll miss the heck out of one of our favorite places though. Our best to the workers.

  • At one time a Proud Patron

    Hello Everyone,
    For over 4 year's I was a proud Patron of this coffee shop at one time. You people above probably have seen me there working and talking with customers and employee's. I invited friends and family to this coffee shop. I also advertised Murky coffee to people looking for a place to sip coffee and free internet. But things changed......And incident happy inside his store. I reported it to Mr. Cho......I got nothing but lies and deception and the run-around. The same stuff he's doing with Wash DC, Employees, and Customers. Mr. Cho's quick solution was to band me from his store, this would eliminate the embarrasing postion your employee put you in. As for taxes, Mr. Cho if you are reading this maybe that new MAC 17" laptop running dual OS's, should not have been bought with tax payers money 2 years ago , or that new telephone, How about that car you have, was that bought with DC tax money, was that you coming in Best Buy the day you exiled me from your store, looks like you were making a move to those fancy flat screen televisions, how about those multiple trips to Central America and vacation spots , was that payed with tax payers money? Looks like your abundance of cash and overspending and bad decision making has you in a lot of trouble. A Murky employee told me your ex-wife's multiple attempts to get you to pay your taxes was ignored by you. I wonder are you behind in your ex-wife's alimony the same way you are behind in your taxes. Mr. Cho I loved that store and the people there.......But you poor judgement and disrespect for your employee's and customer's, and Wash DC is unacceptable and unprofessional. Your downfall from grace is expected from the lies and deceptions to the people that are important to you, the employee, the customer, and wash dc. Mr. Cho look's like you are going to be band from dc.


  • Loyal murky fan

    Commenter #12 At one time a Proud Patron" above,

    hi cliff. where did you start hanging out after being banned from murky because you were sexually harassing customers and employees? i guess it makes sense that you'd still be bitter. I hope you dont end up getting "band" from wherever it is you hang out at now. i'm just glad that for the past many months I could sip and surf in peace without having to endure your yammering.

    this whole thing is unfortunate. I just hope that the staff is gonna be okay, and that everything gets worked out. nick cho is a good guy, and has done enough good things out there to warrant a second chance, and I hope to enjoy the great coffee again soon!

  • c-mah

    OTR ... those were the guys that were bleeding $40million in Prada purses, right? i say get your own house in order and then come talk to me.

  • Christine

    Wow. I finally got through my latest issue of Imbibe Magazine this weekend (I read it cover to cover every issue, coffee cup—sometimes cocktail—in hand). Looks like they went to print before this news broke, but I was interested to see a profile on none other than Mr. Cho on page 30. While it does sound like there's something amiss in his financial practices, it was nice read this piece to get some back story on the individual.

  • Brett

    Wow -- leave it to the press to turn a case of bad accounting into a national scandal. So, Nick's not a good accountant. That's OK; not everyone is. But he's a great barista. What I don't get is why a few people are jumping on him so hard over it. He's paid the price -- two businesses shut down by the government. Could the people who are posting the hostile messages be his competitors, by any chance?

  • Angry Al Gonzales

    Brett, you must be unable to read. Nick is a deadbeat tax fraud - thus, Nick steals from DC taxpayers. That's the bottom line.