“Pro & Con: Should Legislature allow Atlanta to raise liquor taxes?” In today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mayor Kasim Reed’s policy advisor David Bennett says yes, it’s only pennies on a drink. I say no, small businesses will suffer.

There is no place for comments on the AJC site, so we can hash it out here, if you like. I’ll be very frank, this “it’s only pennies” stuff is silly. Taxes are always “only pennies,” but have the rest of you noticed how those pennies have added up? That new proposed tax on personal services that I wrote about last night is “only pennies” too–but at 7 percent or 8 percent on the dollar it adds up. Yes, we’re only talking about drinks, beer, etc., but clearly Bennett doesn’t know how a restaurant works if he thinks diners aren’t going to notice the increased tab and head home a little earlier or at least try to counter-balance the cost of the mojito tab by not ordering dessert or coffee. Maybe he hasn’t worked at one. I have.


  1. Government’s answer to all fiscal issues is to get more money. It really does target the small business owners. Pathetic.

  2. Stephanie, I agree with you for two reasons, (1) actions have consequences and (2) the City government’s greed and inefficiency.

    Actions have consequences, and the consequence of the three tax increases you mention will be decreased income for the restaurants and bars, and for their patrons. The patrons only have so much money to spend and, the more they spend on taxes, the less they will spend on beer, wine and spirits.

    The City government is monumentally inefficient and unable to operate as it would like on its present income. Rather than correct its inefficiencies, the greedy City wants the taxpayers to pay more – gotta pay for those two new Denalis.

    1. I’d like to point out that Bennett doesn’t mention any of the previous fees or costs the City has slathered on restaurants, bars, delis, cafes, brewpubs, etc. He writes about the proposed tax increase as though it’s just one hike out of the blue. Taken in the context of a myriad of other financial pressures the city has placed on these businesses during Reed’s tenure, the increase is far more significant. I realize PARKAtlanta was approved prior to his taking office, and the water rate increase is part of an ongoing deluge of costs for rate-payers partially because of the federal consent order to fix Atlanta’s water system, but what this says, on top of the other fees etc., is that the only way Atlanta knows how to fix its budget is to squeeze those least able to absorb the hit.

  3. Its really kind of tough to fire folks and get rid of positions, when all of them are filled with friends and family. So, like the two previous posts, lets not fix what’s wrong and go from there, let’s just tax the hell out of everyone and run them all out of business. Way to work. Awesome.

  4. One thing that really hit me personally about the article is the fact that I had always perceived Atlanta to be a “restaurant town”. Being somewhat of a “foodie” who really enjoys dining out, it was one of the key reasons I chose Atlanta as a place to retire. I also remember my parents taking weekend trips to Atlanta from Pensacola in the 60’s and 70’s for no other reason that to dine at great restaurants. My point is, that Atlanta’s thriving restaurant culture had always been a big tourist (and retirement) draw in the past, and now the city is going to destroy that “restaurant town” reputation by taxing these establishments right out of business.

    Just think, in Midtown alone, how many restaurants have folded in the last two years. Some, as usual, deserved to fold due to poor quality food or service, but many decent places called it quits too. If Reed and his rubber stamp council have their way, we won’t have much left intown except grocery stores, drugstores, hardware stores, and gas stations!

  5. Here’s another option. Instead of increasing taxes, let’s decreases services in the areas that vote most heavily against said tax increases.

    1. The level of city services, such as police presence, street repair, etc is already so abysmally poor that you would think the city has NO tax income.

  6. This conveniently ignores the doubling of the liquor license fees Sir Kasim slapped on bars and restaurants earlier this year. That put a serious hurt on small outfits struggling with a still-down economy. We were able to get a property tax roll back for a bar building we own (but they pay the property taxes on) – which only off-set the doubling of the license fees.
    This also doesn’t address that soon after Sir Kasim took office he ordered a sweep of all small businesses to shake down folks into getting business licenses. Granted many of them should have them, but it provides a new source of revenue and future revenue to try to shake businesses down in the future. And shortly after that, a fire station crew, for a station we had no idea covered our buildings, came thru doing a code inspection. We fully expected them to return the next week to try to issue fines for minor infractions, but alas maybe the fire department indicated it had better things to do with its staff and equipment.
    Coupled with parking enforcement, as now APD is doing enforcement trollings thru hot spots (if you hadn’t witnessed that yet), it’s getting to be a very anti-small-business climate within COA.
    Oh, the Council used to be called “the nod squad” under Shirley; with dear CT at the whip, need to come up with a new moniker.

    1. Actually, my column (the con- side) was largely about that license fee increase. Bennett did not mention it, though, as you point out. That’s the thing, this increase can’t be viewed as an isolated hike. It’s only the latest. I also agree with you that the business climate here is getting increasingly tougher for small businesses. Bennett’s reasoning seems to be “we haven’t raised drink taxes since the 1970s, so we were due.” That’s kind of like the reasoning behind the license fee increase: We’re increasing them because we haven’t in a while and no, you won’t be getting any additional services for the additional money you pay.
      A name? Hmmm. The “Stamp Camp”?

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