Cut Spike

Cut Spike Distillery in La Vista. On Tuesday, the La Vista City Council approved a 1.5% tax on restaurants and drinking establishments.

Diners and drinkers in La Vista could soon pay a handful of change more for a meal or a drink under a proposed restaurant tax.

The La Vista City Council next month will consider a 1.5% tax on restaurants and businesses that serve beverages. Officials project the tax could add up to $700,000 annually to city coffers.

The tax would apply to myriad food and drink establishments, including cafes, bakeries, coffee shops, food trucks, caterers and similar businesses in grocery or convenience stores.

Alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages would be included.

La Vista Mayor Doug Kindig said the city is growing “at a very rapid rate.” The restaurant tax, he argued, would accommodate city needs that accompany such growth, including infrastructure projects, city services and staffing.

“We see this as a revenue source that can help us to ensure we’re providing the citizens what they expect — which is really good (city) services,” Kindig told The World-Herald.

Part of the city’s growth can be seen in the massive 84th Street project that will change the face of the city’s main corridor. The heart of the redevelopment is City Centre, a 34-acre, $235 million mixed-use complex between Park View Boulevard and Giles Road that will feature retail shopping, dining, residential and office space.

Nearby Civic Center Park, formerly La Vista Falls Golf Course, will feature lakes, trails and more. There are also plans for an indoor-outdoor music venue.

While the 84th Street project is the most notable change happening in La Vista, Kindig said tentative discussions about a possible restaurant tax started well before the project began. He pointed to other areas of town where development is underway — like the Southport development, which includes the Alamo Drafthouse and Cabela’s — as reasons for the tax.

The proposed tax would add 75 cents to a $50 meal. Once that tax is applied, sales tax of 7.5% would bring the meal’s cost to $54.56, according to the city.

The proposal’s announcement Friday prompted some backlash on social media, with dozens of people weighing in. Some commenters invoked Omaha’s restaurant tax and the fierce debate it created a decade ago.

One man wrote on Facebook that he “won’t be going out in TaxVista anymore.”

In 2010, then-Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle proposed a 4% restaurant tax in an effort to climb out of a $33.5 million budget shortfall that had been projected for the next year.

The tax was eventually lowered to 2.5% and passed, but not before a protracted debate that included pushback from those in the restaurant industry and lawsuits to stop the measure.

Opponents at the time, including then-City Council member Jean Stothert, argued that the tax would keep people from patronizing Omaha eateries.

Stothert campaigned against the tax and successfully ousted Suttle, but has not made moves to get rid of the tax. Omaha’s restaurant tax revenue has grown each year and become an important part of the city’s budget.

Kindig told The World-Herald that he and the council takes public input seriously.

“It’s not going to be an easy decision for council, but I think you cannot rely on property taxes to continue to pay the bills,” Kindig said, noting that a restaurant tax would collect money from anyone who eats or drinks in La Vista.

Council member Kim Thomas said, “We really haven’t decided anything, and I definitely haven’t decided anything.”

Council member Mike Crawford declined to comment until he had reviewed the ordinance and received public input.

The city’s other six council members did not respond to email messages from The World-Herald.

The council will consider the tax at 6 p.m. Aug. 20 at La Vista City Hall. Ordinances typically require three readings spread over three council meetings, which would put the final vote in mid-September.

The council could waive those readings and hold a public hearing and vote all in the same night.

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Ralston has a 2.5% restaurant tax. Papillion, Bellevue and Gretna don’t have similar taxes.

In 2018, Bellevue had considered a 0.75% restaurant tax as a way to help fully fund the Bellevue Fire Department, but the tax did not move forward.

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reece.ristau@owh.com, 402-444-1127, @reecereports

Reece covers Sarpy County for The World-Herald. He's a born-and-raised Nebraskan and UNL grad who spent time in Oklahoma and Virginia before returning home. Follow him on Twitter @reecereports. Phone: 402-444-1127

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