Local wings joint Wings Over Ithaca permanently closed its doors Friday after its owner Bruce McPherson was charged with grand larceny.
McPherson is facing 26 felony charges for sales tax evasion, The Sun previously reported. He pleaded not guilty to second degree grand larceny, second degree criminal tax fraud, four counts of third degree criminal tax fraud and 20 counts of first degree offering a false instruments for filing.
McPherson allegedly failed to submit sales tax returns to the New York State Tax Department between December 2010 and May 2015. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison and civil fraud penalties.
Former general manager of Wings Over Ithaca, Mitchell Blinn, explained that the Wings Over franchise had already decided not to renew McPherson’s contract after it ran out in June.
Blinn, who has been working at Wings Over Ithaca in 2003, said he and his two assistant managers had been negotiating with the franchise since September to buy the Ithaca restaurant, but were told to “move on” after news of McPherson’s lawsuit broke.
The Wings Over Ithaca staff has not been in contact with McPherson since Sept. 1, 2015, according to Blinn.
“None of us knew this was happening,” he said. “We didn’t know all of this was going on behind our backs.”
Blinn said he is still “actively pursuing other avenues of bringing Wings Over Ithaca back.”
“We have 35 employees and very loyal customers that shouldn’t suffer because of one man’s mistakes,” he said. “We are looking for real estate in Ithaca and looking to start over fresh. There’s some major hills to get over, but hopefully Wings Over Ithaca is not done forever. Unfortunately, it’s just done for now.”
Wings Over Ithaca, located at 335 Pine Tree Road, was voted to have the “best wings in Ithaca” in 2011, according to the Ithaca Times.
The restaurant, which was open until 2 a.m. on weekends, was a popular late-night delivery option for Cornell students.
Kevin Kee ’18 called himself a “loyal fan” of the restaurant, raving about the combo packs the venue offered, including various combinations of wings, ribs, fries and drinks.
“I’m actually sad that [Wings Over Ithaca] closed,” he said. “Now I have no place to get wings.”
Angel Ding ’18 said Wings Over Ithaca was “very convenient” because of its late hours.
“I just ordered my favorite buffalo chicken wrap the other day,” she said. “I had no idea that that would be my last ever Wings Over Ithaca order.”
An online petition called “Bring Back Wings Over Ithaca” was launched this weekend to “let the Wings Over franchise know that you want Wings Over Ithaca brought back under new management.” As of today, the petition has around 30 supporters.
“The people of Ithaca have been dealt a great injustice with the closing of Wings Over Ithaca,” the petition states. “We shouldn’t have to suffer just because the current owner doesn’t want to pay his taxes.”