Royal OakSeptember 17, 2012
Patrons shocked over closure of longtime diner
By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer
ROYAL OAK — Local corned beef sandwich fanatics have been empty handed for the past two months since Onion Roll Deli closed its doors on Woodward.
Around July 6, the restaurant shut down after more than 42 years of serving up what had become one of the area’s most beloved corned beef sandwiches. Online message boards and the diner’s Facebook page lit up July 11 once word spread that the business was for lease and not just remodeling during the Fourth of July holiday.
“We weren’t frequent visitors, but we started going there more than 37 years ago when we lived in Berkley,” said George Hoelaars, a Royal Oak resident who used to go there for a meal with his father every Sunday. “They always had great corned beef sandwiches. They’re not the best for you, but they were good.”
Patrons who have been pulling up to the diner have been greeted by an empty parking lot and a July 18 notice of seizure on the door from Oakland County citing delinquent personal property taxes of $1,127.45.
Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner said Onion Roll Deli had a payment plan worked out with the county and was keeping up with payments until it suddenly closed its doors and its owner dropped out of contact. The Review attempted to contact the ownership through the restaurant’s Facebook page.
“We had a longtime dialogue with these guys and they were making payments,” Meisner said. “What he told our collector was that they thought they (might be closing). It wasn’t a money issue as much as it was related to this road repair, their beef with the City of Royal Oak over parking spots and staffing.”
The restaurant could accommodate many more customers than its approximately 10 parking spaces along Woodward. Additionally, the restaurant’s longtime cook reportedly was considering moving away.
“I’m a big fan of that place and it has been there for a long time,” said Meisner, a Huntington Woods native who grew up nearby. “I was very disappointed when I saw the business close. The Onion Roll has been there a long time and been a part of that landmark along Woodward.”
When businesses fail to pay personal property taxes to the cities they reside in, Meisner explained, the cities come to the county to help collect. In the case of about 2,000 of roughly 100,000 Oakland County businesses, payment plans are then worked out.
“We had accommodated them for some time with a very modest payment plan,” Meisner said. “At the point they closed their restaurant, they weren’t making payments. It wasn’t clear they would reopen or what would happen to the personal property inside. That personal property is essentially collateral for the City of Royal Oak.
“We don’t see this very often. It wasn’t the delinquent taxes that put this thing over. It’s sad any time a cherished small business closed.”
Meisner said the county offers several services to assist small businesses going through financial hardships.
He also said many businesses don’t know they are required to file an assessment on personal property — essentially anything not bolted down as part of the structure — to avoid the city guessing the personal property worth when it comes to taxes.
For more information on county services, visit www.oakgov.com.
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