The Monroe County Council opened its work session Tuesday night for public comment on a proposed 1 percent food and beverage tax.
The tax would be placed on customers’ bills at Monroe County restaurants and bars. The revenue would help fund around $30 million of the roughly $70 million expansion of the Monroe Convention Center to include a new ballroom, hotel rooms and more space for group meetings.
It’s estimated the tax would bring in between $2.5 million and $3 million annually.
Monroe County resident Scott Wells opposes the tax. He calls the proposed tax a zombie tax because he says it won’t die. The city and county have debated a food and beverage tax for years. The idea resurfaced this spring.
“Why do you need our money? I mean I’m tired of these taxes. It’s a regressive tax that affects the poor more than it does the rich,” says Wells.
David Smiley teaches tourism, hospitality and event management at Indiana University. He says he has 350 students that could fill the jobs at the convention center if the expansion happens.
“We require our students to do a full semester internship. We have them at Visit Bloomington. We have them at the convention center now. We would love to place more there. We have a number of Indiana students who want to stay in Indiana.”
Thomas Hazinski from the consulting firm on the project says the center loses 60 percent of business because it cannot hold groups larger than 200 people. He says there is room to grow and the goal is to increase summer and weekday business.
Robert Meitus is the co-creator of the Soup Bowl Benefit. He says they have raised about $1.2 million for the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. Meitus says they want to keep its fundraiser in Bloomington but have run out of room at the current convention center.
“There’s not a big enough location for us. We’ve tried everywhere in town with kitchen services and it hasn’t worked anywhere except here. And we think we could sell another 4, or 5 or 600 tickets.”
The county council is set to vote on the proposed tax at its next meeting on Dec. 13.