Two hours after she calls, Kym Register
will start the seventh anniversary party
for The Pinhook, the rock club and community space on Durham's Main Street that she co-founded in 2008. But two hours before she called, Register and The Pinhook staff posted an unexpected plea on the crowdfunding website Fundly: They need to raise $80,000 to pay back the state of North Carolina for sales taxes they missed during the club's first six years of business.
"I am hopeful," Register says. "It really is our last option, our last-ditch effort, which is why we are crowdfunding. I tried to get loans, and I am still looking at some loan options, but we don't have much collateral. I'm not the kind of person—and The Pinhook is not the kind of business—that a bank wants to give a lot of money to right now."
The tab with the state stems from a sales-tax mistake by a previous co-owner (Register now owns the business by herself) and an accountant who did not catch the error. Several months ago, that co-owner informed Register of the mistake. Thinking that the club would get a break or at least an extended payment plan from the state if they self-reported the incident before being caught, Register informed the North Carolina Department of Revenue of the problem. At first, it seemed like they might have more than a year to raise the funds. Three weeks ago, though, she was told that The Pinhook had only a year to come up with the money.
Register was reluctant to go the crowdfunding route. She takes responsibility for the back taxes, as it's her business now, and The Pinhook previously used a Kickstarter campaign to raise more than $16,000 for a new sound system.
That project actually cost about $40,000, and Register only finished paying off the remaining loan a month before she received the Department of Revenue's ultimatum.
"I tried to find other ways to do this, to raise this money," says Register. "I felt that was appropriate because we're a business."
Register and a set of angel investors bought the club's property at 117 W. Main St in 2013. She owns 20 percent of that property, while the group itself still owes $400,000 on that loan
. That situation has made it difficult for the club to find a traditional loan.
"We're using this money to pay taxes, so we're not buying something a bank can take back," explains Register.
Register is optimistic that, especially in a rapidly evolving Durham, the community that has come to depend on the space will rally to support it. (She explains this, at length, in a November Indys Arts Awards
profile.) Her staff, for instance, pitched in to write part of the plea that she eventually posted for help. She thinks more people will respond similarly to their plight. To wit, in just more than two hours, they've nearly raised $3,000.
"In Durham, I think a space like The Pinhook is important," she says. "And I want to stick around for a long time."