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Unpaid taxes apparently lead to closure of chocolate-themed Denver restaurant

Chocolate Lab chocolate lasagne_Yelp photo
A photo of Chocolate Lab's chocolate lasagna, posted on Yelp in March by a diner. The Denver, Colorado, eatery now is closed, apparently due to delinquent taxes.

Even before The Bear started streaming, it was no secret that running a restaurant is difficult.

In addition to culinary responsibilities, restauranteurs must tend to zoning issues, health department inspections, and labor concerns. And, of course, there are tax matters.

It's that last one that apparently has led to the closure of Denver's only chocolate-centric restaurant.

I know, you wish you had made it to the Mile High City to try out Chocolate Lab before it stopped serving. Me, too, since I do like mole sauce used in many Mexican recipes. But despite some of Chocolate Lab's glowing online reviews, I must admit that I'd probably stick with its desserts and beverages.

Labor, operating costs…and taxes: Initially, restaurant owner Phil Simonson responded to a customer's Google review by citing "current employment issues and the increased costs of operating" as the reason he "had to make the tough decision to close down."

But there's more to the story, according to The Denver Post.

The newspaper reports that a tax seizure notice is in the window of Chocolate Lab's now-closed space in the Hilltop neighborhood. It reads —


This personal property is in possession of the Manager of Finance, Ex-Officio, Treasurer, City and County of Denver, State of Colorado, by virtue of a distraint warrant issued for the collection of unpaid taxes.

Warrant before seizure, sale:
Topic No. 48 in Denver's tax guide says a distraint warrant, which is served by the sheriff, indicates the amount of overdue taxes, the due date, and instructions regarding the removal or destruction of any property within the business.

If taxes continue to be delinquent, the property is usually seized, and ultimately sold to cover some, if not all, of the unpaid taxes.

A spokesman with the Denver Department of Finance told the newspaper that property seizure and sale usually is a last resort.

The Chocolate Lab had been in business since 2010. It moved in February to the location that's now closed. Will it be able to settle its tax debt and reopen?

Its fans hope so, but right now, signs aren't encouraging. Simonson's online reply seemed pretty final, ending with, "I am sorry you were not able to enjoy the amazing creations we once had."

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