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Now you see it, now you don't, LH Saloon open for business

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Just a day after the Longhorn Saloon was seized and closed by Bandera County for unpaid taxes, the popular waterhole was open for business - with all back taxes paid in full.
In an interview on Thursday, Jan. 21, Bandera County Tax Assessor-Collector Gwenda Tschirhart, PCC, said that suits against the personal business property of Brian Black and Charlotte Browning, owners of the Bandera Saloon and Bandera River Company, had been reactivated after it was learned that bankruptcy proceedings filed by the couple had been dismissed in federal bankruptcy court.
The county had initiated seizure proceedings in 2013. "Within one week, we received a bankruptcy notice which meant the county was no longer able to proceed," Tschirhart explained. "Bankruptcy protects the people involved and puts local seizure matters on hold." However, the bankruptcy dismissal enabled the county to proceed with the suits against the businesses located at 1307 Main Street. Accordingly, Tschirhart followed procedures as set out in the Texas Property Tax Code.
At 2:45 pm, Tuesday, Jan. 19, deputies with the Bandera County Sheriff's Office served two tax warrants on-site - one to both Black and Browning, owners of the Longhorn Saloon, in the amount of $4,011, for unpaid taxes from 2010-2016, plus $90 in fees, and a second on Black, owner of the Longhorn River Company, in the amount of $5,540, which included unpaid taxes from 2013-2016, plus $90 in fees.
She noted that only the businesses were seized, not the couple's home or land. To date, taxes owned on that property have amounted to approximately $78,033, covering 2011 through 2015.
Tschirhart accompanied the deputies to the property. "This is not the first time I've been on-site when a tax warrant was served," she said. "This would have been an opportunity for Mr. Black and Ms. Browning to give us cash or a certified check to pay the back taxes and fees. If that had happened, we would have just walked away."
That didn't happen. At that point, the only alternative, she said, "... was to lock the buildings down until an auction date was set for restitution for the amounts of the tax warrants."
However, nearly 24 hours later, at 3:41 pm, Wednesday, Jan. 20, to be exact, a certified cashiers check for $9,551 was presented to Tschirhart. "The back taxes and fees were paid in full on both businesses, including the furniture, fixtures, equipment and inventory," she said.
Once the taxes were paid, Tschirhart contacted the sheriff's office and along with Andy Wells, who serves as assistant to Henry Steen, delinquent tax attorney for Bandera County, turned over the keys to the new locks to Black. All locks had been changed at the time of the seizure. Additionally, a "walk through" of the premises was completed. During the seizure, Tschirhart had conducted a complete inventory of the buildings' contents, including on-site beer and liquor.
The Longhorn Saloon was open for business almost immediately and jumping that same night.
For the most part, Black's narrative on the closure followed that of Tschirhart. During an interview on Tuesday, Jan. 26, he said he had called the tax assessor-collector the morning of Jan. 19 to let her know he was selling the business. "I asked what taxes I owned on the bar so I could include that in the final price," Black said. "Two hours later, six deputies and an investigator stormed the bar with two separate documents for two businesses, the bar and the tubing company."
Black said he immediately went to a bank and brought back a cashier's check for the amount owed on the Longhorn Saloon; however, Tschirhart refused to open the business, saying he must pay the taxes owned on both businesses. "I don't think that part of the tax seizure was legal and we're consulting an attorney about that," Black said.
For her part, Tschirhart said, "As tax assessor-collector, I had to use the tools given to me through the Texas Property Tax Code to secure the interest of taxing entities involved in this matter and to collect all delinquent current and 2016 taxes and any costs, on the owner of these two businesses in Bandera County."
She continued, as part of my elected position, I had to be fair and take care of the interests of all the taxing entities (Bandera County, City of Bandera, Bandera Independent School District and the Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District) and the citizens. This is never an easy job and I always wonder about the 'what if's'."
During the closure, a clarion call went out on social media describing the plight of the watering hole for which Black and Browning were grateful. Black noted, "We want to thank our customers and the community for showing support and reaching out to help when we were in need."