The taxpayers of Philadelphia have unwittingly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars paying the electric, gas, and water bills for a posh restaurant, all because the city says it simply goofed. But now that they know about it, the restaurant will be compelled to pay that money back, right? Not quite.
The Philadelphia Daily News’ It’s Our Money column has been looking into who has paying for the utilities at the upscale waterfront eatery. The city first insisted the restaurant had been paying its own bills until the paper requested proof. Then folks changed their tune.
Since it opened in 2006, it’s estimated that the restaurant has tallied up a tab of around $225,000 on electricity alone; all paid for by the city.
The restaurant is located in the shadow of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Fairmount Park. Its contract with the city says it is responsible for paying its own utility bills.
But a rep for the city’s Parks & Rec office says that, since the utilities bill the city which then figures out which each of the park properties owes, this is all a big misunderstanding.
The problem is not that the restaurant is not paying,” said the rep. “We dropped the ball administratively and failed to issue the bills.”
But still, shouldn’t the restaurant have to pay that money now that the error has been discovered?
The city says it can’t recoup the money from 2006 to 2010 because the proper metering equipment wasn’t installed during those years.
The city claims that the restaurant paid its utilities in 2010, after the meters were installed, though it offered no evidence of these payments to the paper. However, in 2011, taxpayers once again paid for everything. At least that money will be recouped, says the Parks & Rec rep.
The politically connected owner of the restaurant poo-poos any talk of cronyism.
“There is no inside job. There is no preferential treatment,” he tells the Daily News. “I don’t think any taxpayer in Philadelphia would pay an invoice that they haven’t seen.”
Maybe not, but if I go a month — let alone 4-5 years — without seeing a single utility bill, I’d start to ask questions.