Burke & Wills Restaurant Seized by State Tax Department (Updated)

Australian restaurant Burke & Wills at 226 West 79th Street was seized by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance on Wednesday afternoon, with a note on the door saying it was for “nonpayment of taxes.”

A message on the restaurant’s answering machine said they were “temporarily closed” as of 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, but are “working to be reopened and serving you as soon as possible.” The same message was left at the Manhattan Cricket Club bar upstairs from the restaurant.

Update: Owner Tim Harris sent the following explanation to us through a spokesperson:

“Burke & Wills was born from the ashes of the Moo Life Group (The Sunburnt Cow, The Sunburnt Calf, Bondi Road and The Sunburnt Calf BK), where I was involved in a managerial capacity. After the Sunburnt Cow was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, I purchased the current Burke & Wills space, which was part of Moo Life Group. As a result, I inherited the debt incurred from the storm, which included a sum owed to NYS for sales taxes owed.

After making every effort to work with the state over the past 4 years, there has currently been a misunderstanding, and we are working as hard as we can to resolve the issue and reopen within the next few days.”

The closure is putting a damper on some Upper West Siders’ plans.

“I was excited to have cocktails at the Manhattan Cricket Club, but it has been ‘seized,'” wrote Chris, who sent in the photo above.

Others wondered what would happen to their upcoming reservations — the restaurant has encouraged to email them at eat@burkeandwillsny.com with questions. We did not receive an immediate response after emailing the restaurant early Thursday, but will update this if we do.

Thanks to Katie, Lauren, Chris, Ezra, Marlene and others for tips and photos!

FOOD, NEWS, OPEN/CLOSED | 19 comments | permalink
    1. your neighbor says:

      I guess they haven’t been remitting their sales tax to Albany.
      In general, the state sends you notice after notice after notice for a year or so before they shut you down, so they had plenty of time to pay up or make arrangements to pay up (at 18% interest). My guess is that someone in the business end decided to ignore the notices.

      I think all they have to do now is enter into a payment plan with the state and they can reopen.

      Somebody dropped the ball on this one, you don’t mess around with the tax people.

      • Sean says:

        Most small restaurants after a point are operating out of pocket. There are so many obstacles. They are emotional environments and just like extended families. Most likely they owe everyone and are struggling to pay for goods to prepare and sell a meal every single night.

    2. Juan says:

      Do the crime, do the time.

    3. Smithe says:

      Failure to remit sales tax is a deliberate act and not an oversight. It’s always indicative of a cash flow problem so this place isn’t long for the world. Oh well. I really liked this restaurant.

    4. EricaC says:

      I don’t understand their comment about inheriting the tax problem by buying real estate. That seems improbable.

    5. Sarah says:

      Since when do sales taxes follow a property? I’ve never heard of this before.

    6. Ers says:

      I had heard a nearby restaurant manager comment how he couldn’t understand how they were able to offer their wonderful happy hour bar deal. He said there was no way he could compete. Perhaps this is how!

    7. jgould says:

      i predicted this crappy place would close due to its pretentiousness, arrogance, mismanagement and plain downright stupidity; timing unfortunately a touch off, but finally vindicated!! revenge IS sweet! i could sense this owner was the sort who would eventually run into cash flow problems, while pretending “all is well”. wonder how his investors are faring? good riddance, and hopefully a decent, well managed restaurant/bar will open in this space!

    8. Scott says:

      Where will I get my kangaroo burgers and witchetty grubs now? I’m so screwed.

    9. JLR says:

      Went there to see a friend a few weeks ago and was put off by the pretentiousness of keeping the space upstairs hush hush and speakeasy-like. When I inquired about how to make a reservation upstairs I was told the best time to come was on Mondays!! LOL. I laughed so hard I had to high-five the idiot who was play-pretending to be a serious host. The UWS does not need places like this.

    10. Stoofie says:

      I went on my first and only tinder date to the Manhattan Cricket Club 2 years ago. We are now engaged. I will miss this place for the fantastic memory of my last first date, if nothing else. Love you Bryan!

      • Bryan says:

        Love you more, Stoofie!

      • Alberto Lama says:

        I love that place and it’s staff. I think we shouldn’t judge without knowing exactly what happened. They have the right to tell their side of the story. I really hope everything works out ok for the only cool trendy place that we have in the UWS. Congratulations for your engagement STOOFIE! Let me know if you need a wedding Photographer 😉

    11. Frak says:

      Same as what happened to H&H Bagels

    12. Dave says:

      Karma is a bitch Heathe

    13. Neighbor says:

      One investor who now resides in Mexico did not disclose the magnitude of a past tax debt that was accrued prior to Burke & Wills and the MCC being contemplated. It has nothing to do with the current business. NYS has put 20 people out of jobs just before the hokidays. That is criminal. The other investors and the current management are working hard with the state to reopen the business.

    14. Steph says:

      I guess the Spiga space won’t be opening any time soon

    15. Michael D says:

      It is very sad to see some of the negative feedback regarding both Burke & Wills and MCC. We have been going to both of these establishments for years and have grown to know it as “our place.” From Anniversaries to Surprise Birthday parties all we would go here as the designation. The ability to remain open in the competitive real estate landlord fueled environment of the UWS is difficult at best. And to find an environment where we can hide for an hour or two as we let the stresses of the week slip away is invaluable. It is unfortunate that somethings is amiss in the finances that enabled this to occur. Although it is also unfortunate that we as residence are declaring guilty without knowledge of the real truth. Hope they reopen soon and continue the ability to provide our neighborhood with quality food and beverage service in an environment we can truly be proud of.