Food & Beverage Tax Frustrates Ocean Springs Eateries

"For every dollar you spend, you're going to pay two more pennies than you would normally," Ben Hornvey Government Street Grocery co-owner says.

Hornvey says a two percent tax on food and drinks at his bar might seem like pocket change to some. But he believes the effects of an additional tax would actually take away from what small businesses like his have worked so hard to accomplish.

"Just think it's seriously unfair that you're going to make the people who are reaping the benefit, foot the bill for something the city wants done, and not something everybody wants done," Hornvey says.

The city wants to use the estimated $15-20 million generated from the proposed tax to benefit parks, recreation, and public safety. In Betty Goodman's coffee shop, patrons often use change. She says there's no way to disguise the tax's presence when you're dealing with nickels and dimes.

"I think it's going to be very hard on the small businesses. It's going to make it difficult for us," Goodman says.

Goodman says Katrina took a toll on restaurants large and small throughout Ocean Springs. She worries the added burden wouldn't just be financial, but also taxing to the mere existence of businesses like hers.

"If you can go to another area and the prices are lower, you'd chose the area that has the same good food as Ocean Springs does with a cheaper price," Goodman says.

But don't bank on that restaurant tax just yet. The State Legislature must grant the city permission to let voters be the judge, by putting the issue on the November ballot.

Recreation Director Sean Campbell revealed results from a survey at Tuesday night's meeting. Of the 244 people who responded, 86 percent favor the two percent tax.

Aldermen say the tax wouldn't be paid by the business, but instead, by consumers. They estimate one-third of that tax revenue would come from out of town visitors using restaurant and bar services.