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Monroe County Restaurants Fear New Tax Won’t Benefit Them

The Monroe County Council is considering a proposal that would increase taxes on county businesses to pay for an expanded convention center.

convention center

Photo: WFIU/WTIU News

The Bloomington/Monroe County Convention Center is located next to the Courtyard Marriot.

Restaurants around Monroe County may not reap equal benefits from a 1 percent food and beverage tax the county is proposing.

The Monroe County Council will begin discussing Tuesday a 1 percent tax which could fund an expansion of the Bloomington Convention Center.

A parking lot across the street from the existing convention center could house much of the expansion, but not until a funding stream is opened to raise much of the $25 million to $35 million the project would cost.

Convention Center Director Talisha Coppock says the 1 percent tax would generate an estimated $2.5 million a year from sales at restaurants throughout the county.

Bill Lutgens, who owns the Wee Willie’s franchise of restaurants in both Ellettsville and Bloomington says he thinks he will raise prices to cover the difference, which is something he expects more restaurants to do.

“It would be beautiful if the people in this convention center would go that far,” he says. “But there’s not too many people that like to travel more than five or 10 minutes, and that’s 15 minutes.”

Coppock says she understands concerns that Ellettsville restaurants might not benefit from additional convention business like those in downtown Bloomington, but says the countywide tax is written into state statute and the convention center is where it is.

“It’s important to think of a big picture. If you look at just today and tomorrow and ‘how am I gonna be affected directly,’ which a lot of small businesses do because they’ve got to keep that door open,” she says. “That’s one thing, but you have to kind of step back and look 25 years down the road, our community continues to grow.”

The council is still far from voting on the plan. Tuesday’s meeting is the first of several work sessions designed to determine the feasibility of the new tax.

Stan Jastrzebski

WFIU/WTIU News Senior Editor Stan Jastrzebski spent time as a reporter with WGN Radio in Chicago and as an editor at Network Indiana, an Indianapolis news service. Stan is the winner of awards from the Associated Press, the RTDNA, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. He hosts WFIU's Ask the Mayor and anchors WTIU's InFocus.

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