A letter to FITSNews, purportedly by an anonymous “citizen,” criticizes the Town of Lexington’s hospitality tax with phony accusations and an attack on Mayor Steve MacDougall. As usual with anything published on that website, truth is rare.
In the article titled “A. Citizen: Lexington Restaurant Tax Fails Its Chief Promoter,” the writer makes at least one mistake/false claim/misleading statement in each of the first few paragraphs.
About two years ago, FITSNews broke the story about the town of Lexington, South Carolina passing a new $2 million yearly sales tax on meals served in local restaurants.
FACT: FITSNews did NOT “break the story.” It was a well-publicized and transparent action by the Town Council. FITS loves to claim exclusivity, so it’s no surprise that the author of this post would follow that practice.
One reader warned your website that “If that tax passes, I may buy my groceries in Lexington County, but I won’t be spending a PENNY in restaurants.” It appears that thousands of other taxpayers had the same idea.
FACT: Twenty nine (29!) eateries have opened since the hospitality tax went into effect and business is booming. Many have “Help Wanted” signs in their windows. And keep in mind that the new supermarkets are or will be offering prepared foods that can be consumed on the premises. Those items are subject to hospitality tax.
After this tax hike passed, there has been a rash of restaurant closings in Lexington. The Lost Cajun, a New Orleans-themed restaurant shuttered its doors; as did Bruegger’s Bagels, The Farmer’s Shed, Mr. Hibachi, The Crescent Moon, and Buddy’s Saucy Dogs.
FACT: The Lost Cajun, Bruegger’s Bagels, Mr. Hibachi and Buddy’s Saucy Dogs have all been replaced by restaurants! Palmetto Subs is now in Lost Cajun’s space, One Taco, Two Taco opened where Saucy Dogs did business, Bruegger’s Bagels was replaced by Poke Brothers and it’s next door neighbor will be Clean Eatz where Mr. Hibachi used to be. I’ll add that what used to be Hardee’s on Columbia Avenue is now Captain D’s. That wasn’t just a building takeover, either. The company completely razed the old Hardee’s and built a new structure. A pretty hefty investment.
BONUS FACT: Of interest is the Sonic across the street from Captain D’s. The owner was a staunch critic of the hospitality tax, claiming it would hurt his business. Since the tax went into effect, he expanded his store to include indoor seating. Hardly the sign of a business in economic distress.
ANOTHER BONUS FACT: As for the other two restaurants on the writer’s list, Crescent Moon and The Farmer’s Shed, they are not in the town limits and were not subject to the hospitality tax.
Mr. D’s, in fact, replaced a business (Gilligan’s) that closed BEFORE the hospitality tax was initiated. Besides, the now defunct steakhouse had 240 seats, not tables as the author claimed. At maybe four seats per table, that’s 60 tables. But, facts are a bitch.
Clearly, the focus of the article is not about the impact of the hospitality tax on the economy.
While it is true that the tax was/is unpopular (what tax isn’t?), it is NOT true that it has harmed businesses or the populace. And why the author chose to single out the Mayor and Councilman Ron Williams is, itself, curious since the council voted six-to-one to approve it. Councilman Williams, although a supporter of the tax, was not the main proponent of it. And important in that vote is that the lone “nay” came from council member Ted Stambolitis, himself a restaurateur, who isn’t even a resident of the town!
Instead of criticizing (without grounds) the Town Council for implementing a limited-duration tax for much needed improvements, why isn’t there at least a little bit of praise for its foresight? A boom of nearly 30 restaurants means even more revenue to help fund those community traffic projects. How many jobs were created by these openings? How much business stays local instead of going to Columbia or Irmo or Chapin or West Columbia or Cayce?
The fact that the writer of the FITSNews post mentioned the 2018 election several times is not lost. It stinks of the anti-progress people who have no interest in what is needed to make our community better. Like the far left subversives AntiFa and BLM, these self-righteous blowhards think they are smarter than anyone (especially voters) and denounce anyone who disagrees with them.