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Ann Arbor Bar Owner Featured on ‘Bar Rescue’ Sent to Prison

The Arena sports bar operator pleaded guilty to pocketing $700,000 in sales tax

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Mike Flore.
Bar Rescue/Screenshot
Brenna Houck is a Cities Manager for the Eater network. She previously edited Eater Detroit and reported for Eater. You can follow her on the internet at @brennahouck.

A bar owner recently featured in an episode of Spike TV’s Bar Rescue has been sentenced to prison for sales tax evasion. Brian Michael Flore, who operates The Arena bar in downtown Ann Arbor, received a two-to-five year prison sentence and $1.5 million in restitution fines on Wednesday. Flore pocketed more than $700,000 in unreported sales tax over 10 years, according to a release by the state attorney general’s office.

Flore initially pleaded guilty to the charges on July 22, 2015, but his was given an 11-month delayed sentence in order to pay toward his past due and his current sales tax obligations. However, Flore failed to meet that terms of his delayed sentence, which resulted in the decision on Wednesday to take him into custody.

According to the attorney general’s office, investigations into Flore’s business practices at The Arena began in 2013 by the Department of Treasury. The auditor found evidence that Flore was purchasing liquor that was sold to the public and was not paying customers’ sales taxes.

The Arena bar was featured in the renovation show Bar Rescue in November 2015, and received a full renovation and revamp guided by host Jon Taffer. Speaking to the Detroit Free Press, Flore’s attorney Andrew Abood stated that "the sentence was unfair, disproportionate, (and) failed to comply with the criteria established by the Michigan Supreme Court." As to whether or not the bar will continue to operate in Flore’s absence, Abood tells The Detroit News, "It’s too early to tell."