Losing a sales tax permit can close the door for good on a retail business. But 11 months after having its permit revoked for failing to pay $345,000 to the state, a Wayzata restaurant is still serving scallops and steaks.

That appears to be possible because NorthCoast restaurant changed hands last fall. The previous owner, Matthew Kaminski, sold the restaurant to Brenda Kaminski, according to a September 2009 city of Wayzata memo. At that time, the legal entity that owns NorthCoast changed from Wayzata Northcoast, LLC, which owes the tax debt, to North Coast Wayzata, LLC.

The restaurant's name, surf-and-turf specialties and scenic location overlooking Lake Minnetonka are the same. Like the old business, the new ownership has also run afoul of the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Starting last year, the revenue department has taken action against both businesses and Matthew Kaminski to try to collect delinquent sales and withholding taxes related to NorthCoast. The $345,288 tax bill for Wayzata Northcoast is the largest on the state's list of businesses with revoked sales tax permits, though that amount could be lower because the state doesn't update its list until the total debt is paid.

Robyn Dwyer, director of the revenue department's collections division, said she could not talk about the NorthCoast case. Dwyer said a new owner could be responsible for the previous owner's tax debt, but "there are loopholes."

In some cases of businesses with tax debt that change ownership, "they've done their due diligence in legally setting up a totally different corporation," she said. In other cases, "we're trying to take a look at some of these transactions that are taking place where people may be trying to work around the system."

When reached by Whistleblower last week, Brenda Kaminski said she is the general manager of NorthCoast and said the restaurant was probably on the state's revocation list because of the previous owner.

"I know absolutely nothing, and I should know just about everything, because I'm in charge of opening all the mail and forwarding all the pertinent information," Kaminski said.

Matthew Kaminski, who heads the investment firm Wayzata Capital Management and also goes by the first name Maciek or M.G., did not return a call for comment. Brenda Kaminski's Facebook page lists her as married to M.G. Kaminski.

State takes action

NorthCoast opened in 2004 and attracted diners to enjoy entrees like $30 lobster tail kabobs while taking in the views of Wayzata Bay from the patio and rooftop deck. Matthew Kaminski's company took over the restaurant in 2006.

On Sept. 1, 2009, the revenue department took two actions related to NorthCoast. The first was filing a tax lien against Wayzata Northcoast for $374,321 that it hadn't paid while operating the restaurant. The second was issuing a sales tax permit so North Coast Wayzata could operate the restaurant.

Anyone who buys a business must check whether there is a lien against the business for delinquent sales or withholding tax. If they don't, they could be held liable for the delinquent taxes.

Dwyer said she could not comment on whether North Coast Wayzata has been assessed liability for Wayzata Northcoast's delinquent taxes.

The revenue department continued to put pressure on Wayzata Northcoast and Matthew Kaminski to pay the restaurant's outstanding debt. In December 2009, the department filed a lien assessing personal liability against Matthew Kaminski for $353,000 in unpaid sales tax from the restaurant.

This June, another lien was filed against Matthew Kaminski for $55,802 of payroll withholding tax connected to the restaurant. Kaminski, a commercial property investor, has had other recent money troubles. The Star Tribune reported in February that he was delinquent on loans for several properties, including the building that houses the restaurant. He owed almost $275,000 in property taxes for other properties he owned.

The current restaurant owner also racked up unpaid sales tax debt this year. In September, the state filed a lien against North Coast Wayzata for $106,000. The restaurant's sales tax permit is unaffected.

Staff writer Jane Friedmann contributed to this report. lora.pabst@startribune.com • 612-673-4628