Restaurants love Panthers, not higher meals tax

Restaurants love Panthers, not higher meals tax

Restaurants love Panthers, not higher meals tax

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by STEVE HARRISON / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on February 20, 2013 at 10:13 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association voted unanimously Tuesday against the city of Charlotte’s plan to double the local prepared food and beverage tax to pay for $144 million in stadium improvements and other assistance for the Carolina Panthers.

The association’s board passed a resolution in support of the NFL team, but the group said restaurants shouldn’t be counted on to support all of the team’s financial request. It urged the city to use surplus money from the existing 1 percent prepared food and beverage tax.

The existing meals tax is dedicated to the Charlotte Convention Center. By tapping that fund’s surplus, the city has said it could take on $110 million in new debt – almost enough to cover the Panthers’ request.

But the city has said that money should be spent on the convention center.

The City Council voted 9-1 in closed session in early February in support of giving the Panthers $144 million over 15 years. In return, the team would be obligated to stay in Charlotte for that length of time.

“This proposed tax increase unfairly targets just one sector of the business community – restaurants – and would come at a time when these businesses are already facing challenges and economic uncertainty themselves,” said Brad Hurley, the association’s chair, in a statement. “While many businesses benefit from the Panthers, they should all be willing to share in the investment of keeping the team in Charlotte.”

The city has proposed that the tax hike last for 30 years. Over that time it would probably raise about $1 billion.

The city has said some of that money could be used to improve amateur sports facilities in the area. The Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority has said amateur sports could be a boost to the economy, attracting thousands of families who stay at hotels and eat at restaurants.

The city has also said it would sock away part of the tax to pay for a second phase of renovations at Bank of America Stadium in 2027 – or perhaps to help pay for a new stadium after the 15-year agreement expires.

The City Council’s request would have to be approved by the N.C. General Assembly.

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