You don’t say

“I keep waiting for Sam Brownback to send me business cards with the state seal on it.”

– Restaurateur and caterer Ben Arnold, who says he feels more like he’s in the tax business, though he’s resolved his latest issue over $7,222 in contested taxes at A.V.I. Seabar & Chophouse

You don’t say

“I feel like I’m a tax collector.”

Corporate Caterers of Wichita owner Ben Arnold, who says he accidentally underpaid on state taxes by about $16,000 (which is in addition to the previously reported almost $300,000 he owes in federal taxes)

You don’t say

“Now everyone knows why I do not Own a gun.”

– A text from Corporate Caterers of Wichita owner Ben Arnold after reading Anchor owner Schane Gross’ comment that she’d rather shoot herself than do catering

Ben Arnold behind on taxes but says it’s not nearly as much as the IRS claims he owes

WICHITA — After taking care of some tax trouble he had with Corporate Caterers of Wichita a few years back, Ben Arnold hoped to never be behind again. He is, though, and he’s as forthright as ever about it.

“I do owe taxes,” Arnold says. However, he says he doesn’t owe anywhere close to the approximately $250,000 the IRS says he owes.

“If I did, I would be in Mexico right now. That would just be an obnoxious amount you would have to owe for a period that covers 12 months.”

Arnold believes he owes only about a third of what the government says he owes. The issue, he says, is the IRS says it didn’t receive documentation from him.

“They assess a tax if they don’t have documentation in front of them,” he says.

Arnold says his accountant had sent proper documents and that he personally has now sent them a second time.

“That’s why I’m really, really frustrated.”

Arnold rapidly expanded his BLA Enterprises with catering at Comotara Center and two corporate cafes, Cafe 151 at Cargill and Cafe Intrust at Intrust Bank. He also owns AVI Seabar & Chophouse, which he opened late last year in the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview.

“When I started this expansion, most of (the businesses) worked. A couple did not,” Arnold says. “We hit a very large pothole, and we’re filling it in.”

The largest pothole is AVI.

Arnold says in AVI’s first two months of business in 2011, it lost $75,000.

He says it was like “if you just popped a balloon, everything fell out.”

By August, Arnold says losses were down to $1,900.

He says September and October were profitable, and he believes AVI can be an almost $1 million-a-year business.

“We’ve grown to like it.”

Arnold says he now owes less than $16,000 on the business’ taxes.

He says another issue is the unprofitable banquet facilities he has in 9,000 square feet at Comotara.

“That’s one part of the business I’ve got to do something with. … I love my location, and I don’t want to leave it.”

Arnold says his catering is doing well and is on track to gross between $3.2 million and $3.3 million this year.

He says the cafes also “are extremely healthy.”

Arnold says it’s a “long, drawn-out process” getting tax discrepancies corrected, and while he’s frustrated, he’s not fazed despite the fact that he and his wife have used personal savings to cover some debt and have paid themselves almost nothing throughout the year.

“No one plans to fail,” Arnold says. “Any small business has struggles. You do what you’re supposed to do. … I don’t see this as a huge obstacle for me to overcome.”

You don’t say

“How much money do you really need to make?”

Ben Arnold of Corporate Caterers of Wichita on how he’s not going to make his popular Thanksgiving feast this year in order to spend time with his family and rest up for the Christmas season (during which he makes three months of sales in three and a half weeks)

You don’t say

“I am up to a 9 day work week and this one man band is having trouble playing all the instruments.”

– An e-mail from Ben Arnold, who is seeking partners to invest in his Corporate Caterers of Wichita to help him control the “monster” growth he’s experiencing

You don’t say

“You can’t be all things to everyone. You have to decide what you’re going to do and do it well.”

Ben Arnold, who is closing his Cafe Comotara as of Monday so he can use the space for private breakfasts and lunches, which he often has requests for but can’t accommodate without upsetting regular customers

Corporate Caterers of Wichita to do catering at Courtyard by Marriott in Old Town

WICHITA — Ben Arnold and his Corporate Caterers of Wichita have taken over catering at the Courtyard by Marriott in Old Town.

Larkspur previously handled it.

This makes Arnold’s sixth either exclusive or preferred catering deal at area hotels and McConnell Air Force Base.

“It’s very similar to what we’re doing at the Drury,” Arnold says.

There isn’t a restaurant, though, like the struggling AVI Seabar & Chophouse at the Drury.

“Oh, no, no,” Arnold says. The Marriott deal is strictly for catering. Or, as Arnold puts it, “The money side of it.”

AVI Seabar & Chophouse at Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview struggles to break even

UPDATED — The new AVI Seabar & Chophouse at the Drury Plaza Hotel Broadview is not doing well.

Or, as owner Ben Arnold more descriptively puts it, the restaurant is “like a turtle on a Texas highway on his back in the middle of summer.”

In the first six months of business, he’s lost about $225,000.

“I put higher expectations on the restaurant initially because I got wrapped up in the media hype,” Arnold says. “There was so much chatter … for months and months and months surrounding the hotel.”

Banquets and catering at the hotel are doing well, though.

“It’s a package deal,” Arnold says.

He’s laid off five salaried workers in catering and at the restaurant, including Chef Adam Courtney. He also laid off three hourly workers at AVI. Some changes to the menu are coming in the next few weeks as well.

“The restaurant was losing so much money, it was dragging the entire company down, and that’s why I’m making the changes I’m making,” Arnold says. “We were robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

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Caterer and restaurateur Ben Arnold adds another cafe to his menu

WICHITA — Apparently a catering business, five hotel and military base banquet operations, two cafes and a restaurant aren’t quite enough to keep Ben Arnold busy.

So, as of Monday, he’s adding another cafe to the lineup.

Arnold will now operate Intrust Cafe at the Intrust Bank building downtown. It’s a private cafe that mostly serves bank employees along with some tenants in the building.

The approximately 3,000-square-foot cafe is a bit bigger than Cafe 151, which Arnold runs at the Cargill building downtown. That’s open to the public, as is Cafe Comotara, which Arnold has at Comotara Center at 29th and Rock Road.

“I won’t put any kids through college with the money I make off of these cafes,” he says. “It’s all about the partnership of just two great organizations that are based here in Wichita.”

There are many more partnership opportunities he receives, Arnold says.

“I get approached constantly.”

Arnold says he tries to be strategic about which deals he accepts. He thinks the Intrust Bank connection potentially can lead to more catering for his Corporate Caterers of Wichita.

Isn’t it all a bit much, especially since his new A.V.I. Seabar & Chophouse at the Drury Plaza Broadview just opened Monday?

“No, not at all,” Arnold says. “You surround yourself with great people, and you can do anything.”