This past Tuesday, officers from the Georgia Department of Revenue showed up at the Plaza Theatre and seized all eight of the venerable cinema's vintage arcade games for "vending law violations."
While "seized" is, technically, the correct legal term, the tax cops didn't physically remove the machines. For now, they're all still sitting in the Plaza lobby, but they've been unplugged and tagged with stickers that threaten dire consequences to anyone foolish enough to peel 'em off. (Go on, we dare ya!)
What's all this about? Well, it turns out the machines were lacking stickers showing that permit fees had been paid — similar to the tag stickers we have to buy for our car license plates every time our birthday rolls around. Or, as Plaza owner Jonathan Rej puts it: "You've got to give the government its cut."
According to Rej, there is some confusion as to whether the vending company that owns the machine paid its share of the fees. But he acknowledges that the required tax stickers weren't present and that the Plaza certainly hadn't paid the fees it owes to the state, as the venue where the games are located.
His defense: Who knew?
"I'm not trying to say this is a huge injustice or that I'm outraged," Rej says. "It kind of makes sense that there would be some kind of permit fee, but we just didn't know about it."
The annual fees for the 20- to 30-year-old video games aren't especially high — about $25 apiece — but considering that a quarter-a-play machine only earns about $200 a year and spends much of its time out of order, Rej isn't sure the games are worth keeping. Especially when you figure in the sales taxes that go back to the state.
The irony is that the Plaza is about the only place interested in giving the machines a home. "Nobody else wants these old games," says Rej. "All the sports bars want Golden Tee or Big Buck Hunter."
In fact, the Plaza had brought in several of the vintage machines in recent months to join the familiar Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga and Defender games.
"I'd wanted to turn the room into a full-on '80s video arcade with black lights," he says. "It's not a big money-maker, but my goal was to cultivate a cool vibe."
Rej still hopes to keep two or three of the older machines, but needs to make arrangements with the vendor.
Wanna know the worst part of the story? Someone finked the Plaza out. That's right: The only reason state inspectors knew about the offending machines in the first place is because some rat bastard phoned in a complaint. Keep in mind that the Plaza is incorporated as a non-profit arts charity — one that scarcely breaks even from month to month hosting a dizzying array of repertory screenings, film festivals, movie-related events and new releases. Whoever the culprit is, he should be forced to watch, Clockwork Orange-style, 40 back-to-back screenings of The Room. Now that would fuck a guy up.
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