CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It is the talk of the town, or at least the topic of the lunch-time conversation at Uptown's French Quarter Restaurant. It all centers on the millions taxpayers are being asked to "fork up."
On Monday, Charlotte City council approved raising taxes on all prepared foods and beverages from one to two percent. The tax hike is expected to generate part of the $125 million needed to renovate the 17-year-old Bank of America Stadium.
"It's great for them to revitalize the stadium, but for the consumer, I don't think they are going to like it,"said George Photopoulos. His family has operated the French Quarters Restaurant for 26 years. The restaurant is surrounded by city funded construction projects, including a public park across the street and the minor league baseball stadium nearby.
His business has greatly benefited from venues like Bank of America Stadium, but he is concerned how such a tax will affect his business.
"It's kinda mixed. We like to see it happen, but are they doing the right thing taking out of the tax payers’ money, I don't know.
Photopoulos remembers when the city imposed a one-percent tax in the early nineties to fund city projects, like the Convention Center. He says his family's business was forced to pass the cost to customers then and likely may have to do so again. He says they are seeing increased hikes in other areas of their operation so the expense adds up.
"Even though its only a few pennies, really every project they do is a few more pennies, says Charlotte resident Tom Keifer, "We are getting heavily taxed."
Patti Rieger lives in Uptown and is concerned because she says many area restaurant are struggling to stay afloat. "I don't think they should be bearing the burden for this."
As of right now, the proposed tax will be levied within city limits. Many want to see the city expand its tax base and find extra revenue sources.
"They probably are threatening to leave, so they (city) buckle without going to the taxpayers to see how we felt", said Reiger.
There are talks the franchise is entertaining the idea of moving the team to Los Angeles. Customers here say if they have to pick up the tab, they want to be part of the discussion. "I think it was kinda sneaky for them to meet behind closed doors. I know it's legal, but it was a little unsettling, says Dana Marsh, a Charlotte resident.
Mayor Anthony Foxx did not wish to elaborate on the details of Monday's closed door meeting. He says his support for the stadium won't take away from his commitment in seeing the capital budget through. He says details about the city's role in funding the renovations will be addressed when the time is appropriate.
The General Assembly will still have to approve the tax increase because any stadium upgrades can be made.