restaurants

In previous articles, The Gazette covered the Cannon Beach City Council’s discussion about assessing a possible food and beverage tax.

In this story, the newspaper covers what some restaurant owners think about instigating such a tax in Cannon Beach.

John Newman, co-owner of Newmans at 988 restaurant in Cannon Beach said he has been in business for 15 years. “The timing on this is poor – just coming off the pandemic.”

“We’re just getting up on our feet again,” Newman said. “To put this on the restaurants – the least profitable business in town –is …I get it, take care of the fire department. (But), this is like kicking a dog when he’s down.”

Paul Nofield, owner of the Driftwood Restaurant & Lounge in Cannon Beach, told The Gazette the restaurants are “fighting to stay alive. It’s not just the tax. It’s more than the tax that goes into it. The cost of food and beverage is going up faster than you can print menus.

“A lot of restaurants would like to open seven days a week, but they can’t because of the labor issue,” Nofield said. “It’s a full-blown workers crisis crippling local restaurants.”

He said a 5 percent food and beverage tax would be “huge.” It’s not just the visitors who will pay that tax but the locals too.

“If you live in Cannon Beach and go out to dinner and spend a hundred dollars, your tax is $20 on that,” he said. People might instead eat in Seaside to save the tax money.

“If I hadn’t put money into my restaurant over the years, I wouldn’t have a restaurant,” he said. Yet the city has made investments over the years buying the RV Park, Cannon Beach Elementary School and other land speculation.

“A manager would make sure their infrastructure had been put in place a long time ago,” he said. “They’ve had plenty of money over 70 years to build their city hall…” To ask for millions of dollars now to build a city hall/police station facility is…

“Over the past 70 years, they’ve known they were going to have a problem and should have addressed it decades ago and now all of a sudden we have a problem?”

He suggests the city take some time to find “different alternative solutions.”

Jim Oyala, co-owner of Bill’s Tavern and Brewhouse (188 North Hemlock), Warren House Pub (3301 South Hemlock), and CB Smokehouse told The Gazette Sunday: “Our three restaurants last year lost $231,764. Without Paycheck Protection Program grants (PPP) of $664.000 that loss would have been around $900,000.

What happens to our City’s Food and Beverage Tax revenues when our doors are closed, or we have a bad weather year?

I know the City’s problems are genuine: the Fire Department cannot find staff or emergency assistance help. The Police Department’s facilities are in need of upgrade. The restaurants in Cannon Beach face similar problems, specifically lack of help. We have lost our life’s blood for summer employment, J-1 Exchange Students.  They have been here (except for COVID last year) for our summer seasons. Visa applications for these students are incredibly difficult to obtain due to COVID restrictions. I find myself worrying about if one student will be able to catch a bus ride in time from Guayaquil, Ecuador to Quito because they just found out they might have a chance for a VISA meeting there. Three J-1 students and we can open 7 days a week. I don’t have much hope. Now the City wants to tax our product which will certainly be less without help to open.

The many reasons for not having this tax will surface in the next few weeks as the City has finally asked for input from the restaurants in town. Our main concern is that the City will not hear us. Skype meetings are hard to attend and poorly effective. We would hope the City would take a breath and stop this rush to quickly fix the myriad of problems that are very difficult to fix. This tax appears as a quick fix but it is replete with caveats.

Communication is key. Listening and feeling are equally important.”

Jasmine Vega, waitress and manager of The Lazy Susan Café in Cannon Beach, said if the tax is instituted, “people are going to eat in Seaside – that’s what we’re afraid of.”

“Now is not the time (for a tax),” Vega said. “We’re barely recovering from COVID.”

She said the servers would have to take the time to figure the tickets by not including the tax on the alcoholic drinks and explain the tax to the guests.

The Gazette contacted the cities of Ashland and Yachats, which have a food and beverage tax.

Tom Lauritzen, temporary accountant for the city of Yachats, said their food and beverage tax has been in effect since 2006.

“The effect of the tax (on volume of business) has been “virtually non-existent.” However, the closest city is nine miles away, Waldport, which was “not known for their restaurants at that time.” The next closest city  is Florence 25 miles away, which is a long drive to save a 5 percent tax.

The city of Ashland did not respond to a media request form filed by The Gazette by press time.

Other restaurants contacted for comment did not respond.

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