By Jermont Terry

HARVEY, Ill. (CBS) — Dozens of businesses with liquor licenses in Harvey have been put on notice about back taxes, told they need to pay up or shut down.

As CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported Monday night, the owners of the businesses said the timing is suspect.

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A recent audit revealed the City of Harvey has not collected taxes on liquor sales for quite some time. On Monday night, some of those businesses face a suspension in four days if they don’t pay up.

The only problem is the city can’t pinpoint exactly what each business owes.

Drive around Harvey and there is clear blight, but you will also find longstanding businesses like Gloria’s Lounge. After more than 30 years of serving the drinks, manager Rhonda Jackson was puzzled by the latest notice from the city.

“Yes, we’re definitely wondering, where did it come from?” Jackson said.

A total of 42 businesses with liquor licenses received word from the city that they have not paid an excise tax since 2008.

“Bewildered, because prior to this, we’ve received no notification that we owed any tax, or what tax it was, and how much it is, and where it derived from,” Jackson said.

The tax has been on the books for 12 years. But now, Harvey Mayor Christopher Clark said it is time to recoup what is owed.

“It’s to the tune of millions of dollars,” Mayor Clark said.

And the mayor said bars, clubs, and corner store owners who sell liquor must pay those millions.

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While the city cannot tell each business how much is due, there is still a deadline set.

“I’d like it in writing,” Clark said. “I’d like it clear, concise of what we owe and where it derived from so we can pay it.”

But Clark said: “They had 12 years to figure this out. Twelve years.”

Some say the timing of Harvey collecting back taxes is questionable. Just less than a year ago, Mayor Clark targeted liquor establishments – forcing them to close at midnight.

And now, the overdue and never-collected taxes are being demanded right around license renewal.

Terry: “If a business cannot pay his or her back taxes, will they still be able to get their new license?”

Clark: “Probably not, plain and simple.”

Many owners fear they will be stuck with a bill too steep, forcing them to shut down.

“Someone else wants this property; wants this area to do something else, so he’s trying to boost us out,” Jackson said.

The mayor said the money can be used to fix potholes and to turn on some of the streetlights that are broken. He added he has no plans to increase property taxes on homeowners.

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Mayor Clark could not say how many years they will demand back taxes. He said he was still consulting with the legal team in Harvey late Monday.