Why Richmond Must Repeal the Restaurant Meals Tax Now

Penalizes small business & creates incentives for them to relocate elsewhere

If you support the meals tax then you either believe that city visitors should pay a premium tax rate for the exclusivity to eat on city property; or you believe that city restaurants should be penalized for operating on exclusive city premises.

In each scenario the city enters into an implicit agreement with the respective stakeholders. A cornerstone to this agreement is that businesses expect, in return for an increased tax, that the city would be better prepared to execute its job guaranteeing a safe and cultural enriching experience for both visitors, as well as, commercial clients.

But when city officials explicitly breach their contract by permitting and praising violent protests, now we’re entering into 8th amendment territory of cruel and unusual punishments. It is cruel for taxpayers to pay more for negligence; and it’s unusual for a city to condone vandalism which adversely impacts its own taxpaying constituency.

Put yourself in a Restaurant owner’s shoes by looking at it from a different perspective. If you were renting a $1500/month flat downtown and your neighbors wouldn’t stop throwing college parties till 2 am every night — wouldn’t you at least expect the landlord to address the problem and, if they didn’t, wouldn’t you move out?

The situation is no different for Richmond’s small businesses. Many restaurant owners who’ve built their brands in Richmond are packing their bags and moving to the counties, leaving Virginia for a more hospitable red state, or simply closing down for good.

Not only are we loosing restaurant neighbors that we love, but under Mayor Stoney we’ve rebranded that city as a social justice hot spot: in other words, stay away.. This is an unacceptable status quo for the City of Richmond.




Unfairly targets one industry

Many lifelong Richmonders, like myself, acknowledge, as fact, that it has been the small business owners, especially the entrepreneurial restaurant owners and their hardworking staff, who’ve brought this city back from the brink. While Stoney was still a toddler it was the Richmond restaurant scene that became the bedrock which allowed the Richmond City to mature and finally manifest its cultural legacy on an international stage.

For decades intrepid Richmond restaurateurs have not only paid their fair share in taxes, but did so on razor thin margins. And throughout the rise of VCU, it was the Richmond restaurant owners that hired many VCU students giving them their first real-world experiences and some extra pocket cash.

But when VCU is gobbling up scarce city property, while not having to pay a dime in property taxes, and then the city turns to restaurant owners in order to cover the increasing deficit, there’s no way around the truth of the matter but to state the obvious: the city is unfairly currying favor to the higher education industry over the restaurant industry.

There is $29.8 billion worth of real property in the city, according to the assessor’s office. However, about a quarter of that sum — $7.3 billion — is tax-exempt, meaning more than 3,700 property owners throughout the city do not receive a real estate tax bill annually. Nonprofits, churches and disabled veterans can apply for and receive tax-exempt status. Also exempt are public entities, such as state government and Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU, with its ever-growing footprint, doesn’t pay one at all, a university spokesman says.


It’s an attack on tax-payers & equity holders

A city has few responsibilities, primarily, ensuring utilities, safety and prosperity. But when a city fails to deliver on those few expectations, many Americans know what core principle to recite: no taxation without representation.

Since the city of Richmond  has failed to represent the restaurant industry amid the pandemic crisis and subsequent social justice riots, they must act swiftly to repeal the meals tax. Since the beginning of 2020, the economic fallout has been made worst by the actions and in-actions of our Richmond City government. Many citizens have unnecessarily lost their jobs, their rent money, their leases, their property, and their livelihoods. Moreover, the overall reputation of Richmond City has been tarnished and its once vibrant marketplace severely depleted.

The city has a long way to go in order to repair its image as a business friendly town. The first step is a no-brainer, and that’s for City Council to implement a more inviting tax-rate that will incentivize consumers to spend their hard-earned dollar at city properties.

The second step is to make a much stronger commitment toward private equity holders who run businesses and own properties within city limits. All city businesses must be ensured, and perennially reassured by City Council, that their property rights, as well as, property values will once more take precedence over outlandish partisan vandalism and violence.

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