Sushiko co-owner Daisuke Utagawa confirms that the lien was for failing to pay federal business income taxes, but he declined to comment further. “It’s actually a long, long story,” he says. “At the moment, I’d really rather not talk about it.”
The lien was filed on April 30 for $841,144 in back taxes. The IRS does not discuss specific cases, spokesperson Christina A. D’Amico tells All We Can Eat, but she e-mailed to point out that the IRS files liens only after the agency sends delinquent taxpayers a bill and they “neglect or refuse to fully pay the debt in time.” According to online IRS documents, the lien “attaches to all property and rights to property of the taxpayer.”
Utagawa is in the process of negotiating with the IRS, but he says the debt will not force him to shutter the Glover Park location of Sushiko, which is Washington’s oldest sushi restaurant. It opened in 1976. (A second location in Chevy Chase, Md., opened in 2008.)
“We will stay open,” Utagawa says. “We just have to come to terms with the taxing authority.”
The tax burden will not affect Utagawa’s other project, either: The planned ramen/izakaya restaurant on Sixth Street NW in Chinatown. Daikaya, once expected to open earlier this year, has run into construction permitting delays, Utagawa notes, but it is still well on its way to becoming a reality. The chef is former ThinkFoodGroup star Katsuya Fukushima.
“One has nothing to do with the other,” Utagawa says about Sushiko’s tax problems and Daikaya.
The owner declined to give an opening date for Daikaya, which translates into “house of big cooking pots.”
Utagawa has run into tax problems in the past. The State of Maryland has filed two separate liens against the Chevy Chase location of Sushiko, one in 2010 for $19,568 in back taxes and another in 2011 for $29,836. The District of Columbia filed a lien against the Glover Park location in 2010 for $512 in back taxes.
All of those debts have been resolved, Utagawa says.