Ocean Springs Restaurant and Bar Owners Ring Up Troubles With Tax

"At the end of the day, Ocean Springs is going to have a negative cloud over its head, with the label of an additional tax," said Jamie Sablich Jr, co-owner of Al Fresco's.

The fear of a 2% restaurant and bar tax has some Ocean Springs restaurant owners boiling.

"It's a city-wide problem, and I really think it should be a city-wide burden to get the money to take care of it," said Jamie Sablich III, co-owner of Al Fresco's.

Ocean Springs hopes to generate an extra one million dollars a year from the proposed tax.

The city's 85 restaurants and bars would need to gross $50 million per year for about 23 years.

"We understand the needs, we are pro-Ocean Springs, we're just not comfortable being targeted to fund an entire project," Sablich said.

But to pay for a mega sports complex and new police and fire facilities, Al Fresco owner Jamie Sablich III worries an extra tax will cost some restaurants much more.

"The number is miniscule, the number's not important, but we will have a new tax, it will be advertised as a new tax, and it will deter business," Sablich said.

The food and beverages you buy in Ocean Springs gas stations or grocery stores will not be taxed. That's because prepared food represents less than 50 percent of those businesses revenue. Some restaurateurs say that's not fair.

"We're the only ones being taxed, but are we the only ones that are going to benefit? The whole city will, the whole community will. So if we need to generate money, and there's a need for it, let's spread it across the board," Pat Taranto, owner of Taranto's Boiler, said.

Taranto doesn't think it will hurt his restaurant too much. But a selective tax on restaurants and bars in Ocean Springs could set a precedent for cities throughout Mississippi.

"If this does get passed in Ocean Springs, then it has a good chance of getting passed throughout the state of Mississippi," Sablich said.

Also excluded from the potential 2 percent tax are local schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

According to the Mississippi State Tax Commission website, 34 cities in our state already have some form of food and beverage tax in place.

If 60% of the voters approve the tax, the earliest it could go into effect is February 1, 2008.