Loyal Caffe Tazza customers and passersby have been greeted recently by closed doors and red violation stickers at the longstanding Taos restaurant.
The coffee shop on Kit Carson Road, which has long catered to the traveling tourist and laid-back local, shut down in late October following a weekend absence of owner Amoreena Tazza. Red violation notices from the town of Taos littered the outside of the building indicating a repeated violation of a town code requiring a business license to operate, combined with posters hung inside the windows saying "legalize freedom" and other slogans. Some of the violation stickers were covered by spray paint.
"We received some complaints from the neighborhood and the sense was that (the occupants) were sort of squatting," said town manager Rick Bellis.
Tazza, in a recent Facebook post, indicated that she had plans to move the restaurant to another location by Thanksgiving to continue serving her customers, but did not indicate where she would reopen the cafe.
Tazza did not respond to two Facebook messages and several phone calls seeking comment on the closing of the business.
According to Bellis, it was unclear who actually held the lease for the building and the cafe was operating for about a month without a business license. Bellis suspects the property owner may have passed away, he said, because others who paid rent to the same landlords had not had recent checks cashed.
Despite several notices for code violations posted on the outside of the building, Tazza has not responded yet to the closing of the business or sought a business license with the town.
With the closing of the business, the non-compliance violations are deemed resolved by the town.
The business was served with at least seven violations for operating without a business license, an offense that carries a fine of $500 or 90 days in jail per day of non-compliance. With the closing of the business, the non-compliance violations are deemed resolved by the town. In addition, a window on the back patio has been broken and the gate to the patio has been left open since the business closed.
Bellis said the area has been the subject of several complaints of alcohol and drug use, primarily on the patio and that the water and sewage hookups were illegally turned on after being shut off by the town. Bellis said the town was unsure who the town would pursue for this, since the property owners were not clearly defined and the lease had been left "in limbo" from the previous owners.
"We are going to try and pursue who is responsible for the physical property," Bellis said regarding the lease agreement on the property.
According to a Oct. 11 post on social media by Tazza, "I spent the last (five) days thinking about what would be best for the cafe. (Two) days ago I decided that it is time for a new location.
One that supports the families and hard working Taosians on the South end of Taos. So I came back from Denver yesterday and packed up the cafe. Today we will move and reopen by Thanksgiving."
"I love this cafe very much and feel that moving it to a different location that doesn't rely on tourists and locals that just can't pay when they come in will be the perfect way to keep this cafe alive and flourishing. I love my customers and hope you will love the new place we are moving to," Tazza noted in the post.