A handwritten chalkboard notice on the front of Charleston’s historic Quarrier Diner reads: “Closed Today,” and below that, an explanation: “Major Water + Sewer problems.”
The sign is accurate — there are major water and sewer problems, but they are financial, not mechanical. And it doesn’t begin to tell the whole story, which includes a long list of unpaid bills to now former staff, utility providers, food vendors and at least one “American Idol” finalist who performed at Timothy’s, the popular bar and Trivia Night hot spot beneath the diner.
“The water’s off. There’s not really sewer problems. They turned it off,” said Aaron Bays, who washed dishes, ran errands and did other tasks at the diner.
“He had checks bouncing to everybody,” said Bays’ fiancee, Cameo Denton, referring to George Martin West, an ex-prison inmate who was managing the diner and Timothy’s through his GMW Enterprises LLC.
“I have filed charges against George West with the Charleston Police Department,” said Anna Pollitt, who owns the business with her husband, Dave. The Gazette-Mail could not confirm that charges have been filed.
Anna Pollitt said there are no plans to reopen either the diner or the bar until someone else leases or buys the place, and she expressed concern for the workers who say they are owed money they desperately need.
“They are the one that are being injured the most,” Pollitt said. “A lot of these people usually live payday to payday, and my heart bleeds for them, but they are not my employees.”
West, who served time at the Pruntytown Correctional Center, in Taylor County, for fraudulent schemes, had signed a legal contract in 2016 to purchase the business, but the sale was repeatedly delayed and he continued to manage the bar and the diner, Pollitt said.
“I don’t know what happened in January,” she said, “but he just stopped paying everything.”
Days after a Jan. 14 performance at Timothy’s by “American Idol” finalist Bucky Covington, a deposit in the amount of $2,500 was returned by the bank to entertainment management firm Rick Modesitt and Associates of Parkersburg, company President Rick Modesitt said. West paid the balance of $2,500 to Covington the night of the performance, Modesitt said, for a total of $5,000.
“He was supposed to pay cash, but Bucky said things had gone well and, for whatever reason, he took a check,” Modesitt said. It, too, was returned a few days later, he added.
A related warrant was issued in Wood County for West’s arrest on Feb. 23.
“He had a court appearance on May 18 and he did not show, so they issued another warrant for his arrest,” said Modesitt.
“They turned off the water and the sewer on June 26 or 27, I don’t remember which,” Pollitt said. “The reason for the sign was, [West] said the workers broke a valve when they went to turn it back on, but that turned out not to be true.
“He was telling us he was up-to-date with many things that he was not,” she said, adding that the past-due amount to the sanitation board is more than $6,000, the electric bill is more than $7,000, and there are outstanding bills due to the gas company and food providers.
West could not be reached for comment, and Pollitt said it appears he has left town.
Reach Maria Young at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-5115 or follow @mariapyoung on Twitter.