Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suits Seek to Expand St. Charles Tourism Tax; Businesses Want to Extend Levy on Gross Receipts to Include Other Retailers

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Suits Seek to Expand St. Charles Tourism Tax; Businesses Want to Extend Levy on Gross Receipts to Include Other Retailers

Article excerpt

ST. CHARLES * Two Main Street restaurant owners have filed lawsuits that could expand a tax for tourism promotion.

The city is fighting the effort, which aims to extend a longstanding 1 percent gross receipts tax on restaurants and hotels to also include groceries, convenience stores and other stores selling prepared meals. St. Charles officials declined to comment on the suits which could add millions of dollars for tourism.

The case could affect one of the city's biggest businesses, the Ameristar Casino.

The plaintiffs' lawyer, Daniel Goldberg, interprets the tax ordinance as requiring Ameristar to pay the tax on all its St. Charles receipts. The city now applies it only to Ameristar's restaurants and hotel.

"There's a lot of people who should be paying this tax that aren't," contended one plaintiff, Tony Bethmann of Tony's on Main Street. Also pressing the issue is Lloyd and Harry's Bar and Grill.

The case is included in two lawsuits filed last week in St. Charles County Circuit Court. The suits don't seek to get rid of the tax, unlike an earlier suit withdrawn by the plaintiffs last summer.

While Mayor Sally Faith declined to comment on the suits, she addressed the issue of groceries and convenience stores in an administrative ruling Dec. 18.

Faith said the city isn't unfairly discriminating when it applies the tax to restaurants but not to "primarily retail stores with some incidental prepared food offerings."

She said that's because the beneficiaries of the tourism tax are "the hotels and traditional restaurants who enjoy additional business" generated by the expense of tourism tax money.

In the ruling, Faith rejected an appeal by Bethmann's company of a tourism tax payment it owed for August.

Bethmann had argued in the appeal that the tax was unconstitutional because it wasn't applied uniformly to all businesses selling meals and that Schnucks and QuikTrip stores weren't covered on such items. …

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