A second Shelton alderman candidate has unpaid back taxes

Photo of Brian Gioiele
Michele Bialek

Michele Bialek

Contributed photo /

SHELTON — A second Envision Shelton alderman candidate has confirmed she owes the city back taxes.

Michele Bialek, a candidate for the 2nd Ward endorsed by Envision Shelton and the Democratic Town Committee, said she owes $1,703.10 in back taxes from her time as owner of the since closed Liquid Lunch.

Bialek blamed the Republican party, which last week publicly called out 3rd Ward candidate Chris Jones for his unpaid back taxes, for revealing her overdue tax bill.

“While these are valid, outstanding bills, these desperate tactics are uninventive and uninspired,” Bialek said. “Rather than giving the people of Shelton any creative ideas for moving forward, the RTC has chosen to focus on tasteless personal attacks. At the end of the day, I’m not mad, I’m disappointed.”

Bialek said, at this point, she has not contacted the city tax collector about a payment plan.

Republican Town Committee Chair Anthony Simonetti called the release of the information a “very serious business matter for the city” and not a personal attack.

“How is it right for her to not pay her taxes, but expect everyone else to pay theirs and she wants to be an elected official,” Simonetti said. “The Lauretti team does have a solution for her. She could have gone to the tax collector and requested a tax payment schedule to begin to eliminate the debt years ago.”

The news comes days after the RTC paid for a large sign detailing 3rd Ward alderman and Envision Shelton-endorsed candidate Chris Jones’ overdue taxes. One of the RTC signs, located on Long Hill Avenue, was put up late last week and vandalized that same day.

Jones also confirmed the nearly $12,000 in overdue taxes — a result of a failed restaurant, Bricks and Barley Tavern, on Howe Avenue in which he was a partner — and said that he has started a repayment plan.

Incumbent 2nd Ward Alderman Eric McPherson, a Republican who is running against Bialek, said he understands there could be extenuating circumstances, but Bialek should have reached out to the city tax collector to make arrangements for a payment plan.

“It is always unfortunate when people fall on hard times,” McPherson said. “It happens to hundreds, even thousands of Shelton residents every year. But the rest of the residents prioritize their responsibility to pay taxes.”

Bialek said she and her husband, Fred, opened Liquid Lunch in downtown Shelton in 2004, and as the business enjoyed success the couple expanded to three other locations.

“We had just had our sixth child and effectively running the business, while managing four locations and raising six children, became a breaking point,” she said. “We realized — too late — that we simply could not scale to that level.

“We finally cut the cord after nine months, but by then, we had fallen behind on our bills and the penalties and interest began to bury us,” she added. “After endless sleepless nights and a lot of penny pinching, we began to start turn our situation back around.”

Bialek said a fire in January 2014 destroyed the building next to her eatery’s location. The smoke and water damage, she said, was “devastating,” forcing the closure of the Shelton location. More than a year later, she said the couple opened GROW, a locally-sourced, farm-to-table restaurant.

“And yet, even as we were ‘growing’ the business, the past of our Liquid Lunch struggles became too much to overcome,” she said. “We finally had to make the difficult decision to close all our other locations and concentrate on the restaurant.”

She said the “proverbial nail in the coffin” came in September 2017, when the couple was notified that the building, they had occupied for 13 years was being sold — forcing GROW’s doors to close.

“By then, we were overtired, over-extended, and our kids were missing us all the time,” she said. “We eventually saw it as a blessing in disguise, but it was then that we began the painful, long, embarrassing journey of a small business failure.

“To keep our home, it was necessary for us to begin the process of bankruptcy protection,” she added. “It took almost three excruciating years to finalize, but at long last, it was done.”

Bialek said the family is currently in a payment plan for their federal and state taxes and have only recently begun to tackle the issue of local taxes, “something the Lauretti team has chosen to exploit.”

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com