With the Cannon Beach restaurant owners not out of the woods from effects of the pandemic, most are saying a 5 percent tax on prepared food would hurt business, their efforts to bounce back from 18 months of a pandemic and everything that has been brought to their plates during these uncharted times.
“Restaurants are not a reliable source of taxable money for the Cannon Beach Fire District,” said Mary Ann Oyala, who along with her husband Jim, co-own three restaurants in Cannon Beach.
“We are part-owners of Bills Tavern & Brewhouse, Cannon Beach Smokehouse and Charcuterie and Warren House Pub, because of COVID and staffing shortages we are unable to open every day or full time.”
A group of Cannon Beach restaurant owners and food and beverage managers, who meet weekly to discuss issues, support each other and discuss how they are navigating the pandemic, recently had to add to their discussion, beating City Hall.
“We have gone internationally by sponsoring J1 students through a summer work/travel program and have housed four young ladies three months, hired to work in our restaurants,” Oyala said. “Despite that, Warren House was closed in August for two weeks, following that could only be open four days a week with limited hours. Bill’s tavern is closed one day a week, don’t assume the little family owned non corporate restaurants have deep pockets, we do not.”
The Oyalas also believe there are better funding sources for the fire district, like paid parking, a bond, but to rely on a prepared food tax would not be the best for the city.
“The fire department needs a lot of money and a reliable funding source, Mary Ann said. “Placing a sales tax on prepared food establishment for 30 years is extremely undependable and unstable.”
Shelly Crane, owner of Oil and Vinegar Bar in Cannon Beach, and a long time citizen of Cannon Beach, said her business will not be affected by the prepared food tax, but she still opposes the measure as a funding source and she also is against where the city is deciding to put the new police department, city hall and command center.
“My town is making decisions they don’t need to be making,” she said. “Do we need a new city hall, probably, do we need it now? No.”
The Blue Ribbon Committee told our city management through research, that the location they decided was the worst spot they could have chosen in terms of being in an inundation zone, Crane said.
“We lost our grade school because it was in a inundation zone, if we need a command center, why would you put it in a tsunami zone,” Crane said. “It’s funny business to me, I don’t trust Bruce (St. Denis) but he’s got a lot of people on board.”
Crane is also worried about how the measure is worded, in her opinion, it gives city hall too much power over the funds as they roll in.
“The way it’s worded is basically giving the city a blank check… 2.5 percent would go to the fire department and the other 2.5 percent can go to the police department, city hall and infrastructure.”
Crane also believes that this is not a good time to tax restaurants, with everything they have been through and the day to day challenges that industry faces even in good times.
“The timing of this is horrible, they are not thinking what affect this will have on restaurants,” she said. “We have all been hit hard due to the pandemic.”
Jim Litherland, who sat on the Blue Ribbon Committee, charged with studying where to put a new city hall and or police department believes this is the worst possible site to build and spend millions of tax dollars.
“The prepared food tax should be voted down, the fire department should then immediately go for an expanded levy to solve their problem,” Litherland said. “And if a new city hall is to be built it should be with a great deal of citizen input, not in a rush and not on Zoom. Remember, it’s not the city manager’s city hall, it’s not the city councils’ city hall, it’s the Cannon Beach citizens’ city hall.”
Lindsey Oyala, Co-owners in the restaurant group in town along with an art gallery, said the city has done a poor job of describing the exact plans to the voters.
“I’ve been canvasing and talking to my friends and they thought this was just for the fire department and not for a new city hall,” she said. “We have seen no plans, no real costs, they (city management) has no idea what they are doing, I see this as a way of getting money from businesses who are suffering, I’d be all for it if it was just to fund the fire department, it’s like they are sneaking in a new city hall.”
The measure will be decided during the Tuesday Nov. 2 election. Ballots can be mailed in or dropped off at the ballot drop-off location in front of City Hall.