During a recent lunch hour, the Riverside Cafe at 247 W. Front Street had its doors locked and its curtains drawn. Chairs inside the restaurant were stacked atop tables and a note on the front door read, “We are closed for the holiday season. Happy Holidays to all of you. Thank you.”
Two weeks after the New Year, however, the restaurant remains closed. The lack of activity has prompted patrons to post inquiries on the cafe’s Facebook page asking, “What happened?”
Riverside owner Jackie Thornton told the Independent in an email that she tentatively aims to reopen the cafe in early February. She did not elaborate on why it’s currently closed.
The reason could involve mounting financial challenges facing the business. County records indicate that the federal government between July and December placed three liens against Thornton’s business, Thornton Enterprises, for the tax years 2010 through 2013 totaling $168,000. According to those records, Thornton Enterprises owes the money for failing to pay Social Security or Medicare taxes on behalf of its employees.
“We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid,” the federal filings state.
Additionally, the Montana Department of Labor has since 2011 placed three workers’ compensation liens against Thornton's holdings amounting to $6,700. Public records indicate that the state assigned those debts to Missoula Collection Bureau Services. On July 29, meanwhile, the DOL filed a motion in Missoula District Court to collect $3,123.75 “for unpaid wages and penalties,” according to court records. “A final determination was made that the respondent is in violation of the wage payment act ...”
Attempts to ask Thornton about how her company’s mounting debt will impact Riverside’s future went unanswered.
Missoula-based SEB Partnership owns the building that houses Riverside Cafe, and SEB Partnership’s Scott Long said in an email that he isn’t aware of Thornton’s future plans. “We have not been contacted by the tenant, to my knowledge,” he said.
The cafe opened in September 2012 with a well-received menu of rustic American cuisine developed by Chicago chef Derrick Wcislak. The location was the previous home to Front Street Pasta and Wraps, which was also owned by Thornton.