You could say that Odyssey Beerworks’ kegs were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The wrong place was A-Town Pizza, and the wrong time was the day the City of Aurora went into the A-Town locations in August, and seized all the property inside of the restaurants for back taxes – including the kegs, which hold the beer, which A-Town bought to sell to its customers.
“I don't sell them the kegs. I sell them the beer inside the kegs. They have the kegs until they're empty, then we get them back,” says Chris Hill, who owns Odyssey with his wife.
Hill has come to learn the grainy details of tax law quite well in recent weeks. Section 130-74 of the municipal code says the brewery isn’t getting its kegs back this time, because Odyssey didn’t file a lease agreement for the kegs, which cost about $100 a pop, with Aurora.
The city told Hill that businesses like his need to meet three criteria for the safe return of his kegs: it has to be obvious the property doesn’t belong to the business where the assets were seized, Odyssey has to prove the kegs are theirs, and third, the owners would have had to file that rental agreement.
Hill says that’s not really a practical requirement considering his company has more than 100 accounts.
"We’re not going to be able to do that. We’re a small brewery, and we have six fulltime employees, so that sounds like a fulltime job for somebody,” Hill says. “Someone with the city used an example of, ‘Coca Cola runs into this all the time because they don’t file this documentation. So it’s just the cost of doing business. They move on and don’t worry about it.’ We’re not quite the size of Coca cola yet. Maybe someday this won’t be a concern to me, but right now, $6- to $700 matters.”
The city plans to auction off the kegs. Hill hasn’t decided yet if he’s going.
“It is stolen property—it’s mine. It’s written all over our kegs, I mean, (not filing your lease agreement) is an established business practice for breweries and bars and restaurants. The restaurants and bars the own the beer in the kegs—they do not own the kegs. That’s the way it’s been for decades” he says.
The law is clear on this situation, however, and even Hill’s attorney says the city is in the right.