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Up in smoke: The long-standing beef between barbecue-meister Sam Taylor's Taylor Group Inc. and the City of Denver has finally been put to rest by a Denver District Court judge. Sophisticated carnivores will remember that Taylor's old restaurant at the city-owned City Park golf course was known for slopping up the spiciest 'cue this side of Kansas City--and that the whole thing fell apart after the Taylor Group was accused of cooking the books along with the ribs. A city hearing officer ruled last year that the restaurant had filed false and fraudulent tax returns, and Taylor coughed up a cash settlement. That didn't stop him from appealing the case to the district court, but in a recent ruling handed down last month, Judge Larry J. Naves seconded the hearing officer's belief that an odor distinctly unlike barbecue surrounded Taylor's business practices. Among other things, Naves noted the Taylor Group's "nearly impossible' claims that its pro shop made a total profit of just $72 in one fiscal year and its assertion that it owed absolutely no use tax for five consecutive years. The judge refrained from commenting on the likelihood of Taylor's claim that an unidentified "burglar" had made off with three years' worth of sales receipts that might have been used to prove the restaurant's case.

Don't cry for Sammy, though. Despite the court's ruling that his Taylor Group filed fraudulent returns in an effort to avoid paying taxes, he's still in business at his new restaurant on South Cherry Street in Glendale--thanks in part to a $435,000 loan guarantee from the federal Small Business Administration.

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