Mayor Jones rejects getting rid of city's meal tax

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The price to eat out in Richmond is 6% higher than it is in other parts of the region.

According to Mayor Dwight Jones, it will stay that way.

The idea of dumping the meal tax is being pushed by city restaurant owners frustrated that they aren't competing at the same level.  But Mayor Jones thinks that the city can't afford to lose the revenue.

For Richmond restaurant owners, the extra 6% the city slaps on every meal you eat out is too much.

"We don't feel like eating is a luxury tax," said Jake Crocker, the owner of two restaurants in the Fan.

Despite the burden, and push from these small business owners, Mayor Jones said today that the city simply can't afford to stop bringing in that cash.

"Nobody likes taxes or tolls, and so it's a difficult thing," said Mayor Jones. "But once again, when you take away revenue, what is it replaced with?"

And it would be a significant loss. The meal tax brings in $24.3 million into the city's general fund every year. It makes up almost 6% of the city's cash flow.

Even if they lopped off 1%, the addition that was tacked on in 2003, it would rob the city of more than $4 million.

It is money that the mayor believes the city needs and something they can't get from anywhere else. The main reason he isn't interested in even approaching the topic.

During an interview during NBC12 First at 4 today I asked him:  "So at this point, is it even on the table, something you're discussing?" To which he replied, "It's not being discussed."

Four words that could mark the end of the debate.

That additional 1% was added in 2003 to help pay for the new Performing arts center, of which the city pays almost $2 million a year in debt service for.

You can see the entire interview with Mayor Dwight Jones can be found here.

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