BOISE — Three days after sheriff’s deputies shut down a well-known Boise diner and seized its building for nonpayment of unemployment taxes, the Rockies Diner on Overland Road was back open for business Friday afternoon.
Owner Petros “Rocky” Paflias said he paid $15,000 to the Idaho Department of Labor on the morning of Feb. 1 and got the agency to sign a release. The Ada County Sheriff’s Office, which confirmed the release, returned his keys, and Paflias called his employees back to work.
“It’s been a rough couple of days,” Paflias told the Statesman by telephone. “I’m very thankful that I was able to open the doors and be able to give my girls their jobs back, my cooks their jobs back. It feels pretty good.”
On the morning of Feb. 1, the parking lot was empty. Early that afternoon, customers began trickling back, he said. “We are open for business,” he said.
The state seized Rockies Diner, which has operated for 25 years, after Paflias fell behind on a payment plan to cover back taxes owed since 2010, according to court records. Last year, he promised to pay $300 a week in March and April and then $750 a week after that, and he promised to stay current on quarterly taxes.
He paid $14,818 toward the past-due amounts between April and September. He filed quarterly reports for all of 2018 and paid the taxes for the first three quarters, then fell behind again. He hadn’t made any payments since Sept. 24, court documents said.
Paflias told the Statesman that he’ll be working to set up a new payment plan with the state. Paflias said he had been spending too much time working in the kitchen and not tending to his business affairs.
The restaurant has faced financial troubles for years. The Idaho Secretary of State’s Office shows $122,000 in state and federal liens, including a number from the Internal Revenue Service, filed between 2010 and 2018.
Paulina Gunderson, Paflias’ daughter and a waitress at the restaurant for 11 years, arrived at Rockies late Friday morning, after receiving a call from her father to come back to work. She said the closure had been hard on her and the other 14 employees, not to mention her father.
“I’m excited to get started again,” she said in an interview.
The diner received national attention in 2009, when the Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food” came to Boise. Then-host Adam Richman downed a massive, six-pound sandwich with hamburgers, a hot dog, pastrami, chile cheese fries and a milkshake to win the Johnny B. Good Burger Challenge.
This week’s closure was first reported by BoiseDev.com.