Henrico weighs in as meal-tax bill advances

Posted at 12:26 AM, Feb 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-01 00:26:08-05

HENRICO, Va. (WTVR)--At Stuart’s Seafood on Mechanicsville Turnpike in Henrico’s east end, customers say something smells fishy. And it’s not the food.

The General Assembly is considering giving any county that maintains its own roads, and borders a major city, the ability to levy a meals tax.  Henrico County meets that criteria.

“People will complain about what they’re paying. And may not buy as much,” says owner Wayne Moe.

Some county restaurant owners say an added tax may scare some customers away.

“Obviously, I don’t like that,” Al Coleman owner of Big Al’s in Henrico’s west end says, “It is going to hurt their pocketbook. They’re going to get their receipt and say this is higher than it used to be.”

Delegate Joe Morrissey who represents parts of Henrico says the tax will not be a great burden, but will benefit all who live there.

“I’m absolutely in favor of it. We’re not going to have to raise the real estate tax in Henrico County. 

We’re not going to have to raise the real estate tax in Henrico County,” says Morrissey. “I have great faith and great confidence in the members of the Board of Supervisors in Henrico that they’re going to make the right decision.”

Morrissey says that Henrico is one of only two counties in Virginia that maintains its own roads. The $18 to $20 million dollars generated by the meals tax will offset the cost.

The Henrico Meals Tax proposal is showing some signs of life here at the General Assembly. The Senate passed the bill 23 to 17 earlier this week. Members of the House of Delegates will have the opportunity to weigh in.

Critics say Henrico’s Board of Supervisors should leave any meals tax decisions to the voters in the form of a referendum. Similar referendums have failed in the past.

Back at Stuart’s Seafood both customer and owner alike are reeling over the proposed meals tax hike.

“I don’t know why you have to add a tax on everyone in the county. Poor people, rich people all at once," store-owner Moe says. 

Customers says this is one idea they want to throw back.

“Me and my family go out to eat quite often,” says customer Jason Simmons from Henrico. He's worried that the meals tax could mean places like Al Stuart's Seafood might not get the business.

"To know that you have an extra four or five percent on the end of your bill you might not buy that extra drink you," he says. "You might not get that appetizer, you might tip less."

He even said that he might stay home.