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Chicago Ridge shaved ice business no longer on ice

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

The guy who sells shaved ice said he ate some humble pie but hopes his troubles with the Chicago Ridge Village Board are behind him.

Kevin Wright received approval from the board in July to add a gazebo with seating to his Sensational Snow business, a seasonal shaved ice business he has been operating out of a house-shaped trailer at 10600 S. Ridgeland Ave. for about four years.

But it may have been a case of “be careful what you wish for” because after that request led to a background check that turned up delinquent tax issues, the village suspended his business for nearly two weeks.  

Wright addressed the issue at the village board meeting on Tuesday, insisting that he is now in compliance. Hearing that, the trustees agreed by a 4-2 vote to give him a temporary license allowing him to reopen for the rest of this season, with the stipulation that he does not add the gazebo until they confirm his information and resolve other questions that they have about the business.

Village Clerk George Schleyer said an investigation into the history of the business following the expansion request found that Wright had not paid the village’s one-percent food and beverage tax since it was instituted in 2013. 

Schleyer said that it was also determined at a hearing that “no sales tax (had) been paid to the state of Illinois. The state didn’t even know he was in business because Wright’s tax ID number had been withdrawn.”

The clerk said that he decided then that the best thing to do would be to suspend his business license.

“(Having a problem with taxes) is a first for me, personally or professionally,” said Wright. “I am sincerely sorry. I never meant to avoid paying taxes. This is the biggest piece of humble pie I have ever eaten,” he added, adding that he cleared up the matter within 48 hours of being informed about the issue.

He said that when he opened his business, he allowed a friend, rather than a professional accountant, to do his taxes, and each year afterward just followed his lead.

“I did not even know that a food and beverage tax had even been instituted,” he said. Since it was brought to his attention on July 21, he and Schleyer went over his revenue records and determined that he owed the village a grand total of $243 in back taxes.

“You kept track of your sales during that time?,” asked Mayor Chuck Tokar.

Wright said he also met with officials from the Illinois Department of Revenue, and settled that debt as well. He would not say exactly how much sales tax he owed, but Schleyer told the board he had received documentation from the state that he was now in compliance.

“I’m going to have to learn a lot more about taxes. I’m an engineer by trade,” said Wright, a Chicago Ridge native now living in Schaumburg.

He said he also had not realized that the state had withdrawn or cancelled his tax ID number because no sales taxes were being collected.

Several trustees raised other issues about the business at the meeting, including its exact address, because it is located in the parking lot of a commercial strip.  Wright said his lease agreement lists 10600 S. Ridgeland as his address, but Trustee Amanda Cardin said she wants to check that with the property owner. Trustee Frances Coglianese also questioned how he can have an address without being located in a building.

 Village Attorney Burt Odelson said that since the tax debt, the reason for the license suspension, had now been paid, the board might run into legal trouble if the suspension was not lifted.

Therefore, at Cardin’s request, Wright’s business license was reissued on a temporary basis while the other issues were resolved. The vote was approved by a 4-2 margin, with Bruce Quintos and Frances Coglianese casting the two dissenting votes.

Wright said he has had to put the plans for the gazebo on hold while sorting out the tax issues, and the temporary license stipulates that his gazebo plans remain on hold until the trustees are satisfied that everything is in order.

When Wright questioned wondered why he was being questioned so thoroughly now, after being in business for years, several trustees reminded him that many of them weren’t on the board when he was originally given the license, and they are just doing their “due diligence.”

“You’re the one who brought the expansion request to us,” Tokar reminded him.

“This was all over a $243 debt,” said Wright after the meeting, asserting that he has lost employees and $1,500 in business during the last two weeks while the shaved ice stand was closed.

“I’ve lost a lot,” he said.