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Proposal seeking authority to hike Fort Wayne’s food and beverage tax riles nearly two dozen city restaurants

Customers dine at Bandidos
Customers dine at Bandidos(wpta)
Updated: Jan. 28, 2021 at 7:22 AM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne’s NBC) - A campaign seeking to raise the city’s food and beverage tax by one percent would unfairly target their industry.

At least 22 local restaurant operations have taken that position, going on record opposing the tax hike being contemplated.

Mayor Tom Henry insists such a proposal would not be pursued until sometime in 2022 at the earliest, giving struggling dining establishments the chance to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Bandidos, Casa Restaurants, Shigs in Pit and Hall’s Restaurants are among those that don’t want to see the food and beverage tax go up more.

Mayor Henry traveled to the Indiana Statehouse Wednesday, seeking authority from the legislature to hike the tax starting sometime in 2022, if both the mayor and city council agree such a move is good policy.

The subject did not get addressed at a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee.

It is scheduled to be discussed next Wednesday instead.

The mayor and some key business leaders in the city say the food and beverage tax increase would generate millions of dollars in new revenue to help fund projects like riverfront development and Electric Works, but at the same time, they claim such a hike would cost the average restaurant customer less than $20 extra per year.

“The food and beverage tax that we’ve had now for 30 years has now been invested very heavily in our community, Electric Works being the last big project. Well, it’s getting smaller and smaller because of investments that we’ve made, so, we need some additional cash flow to keep this momentum going,” Mayor Henry said.

Jimmie Schindler, who owns Bandidos, feels the tax proposal serves as an insult to the restaurant industry.

“This food and beverage tax is going to affect our waiters’ tips, it’s going to affect the restaurants that are barely making it on the margins. And it just kinds of feels like we’re drowning and we need support and we need a life preserver and instead of throwing us a life preserver, they’re putting their foot on our head,” Schindler said.

Sweetwater Sound Founder and CEO Chuck Surack and Fort Wayne car dealer Tom Kelley are among business leaders siding with the mayor, saying additional sources of revenue must be tapped to keep the city vibrant and growing.

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