Proposed bill for restaurant/hotel tax in Eau Claire

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – A night on the town or hotel stay could soon cost you more. Local lawmakers are proposing a 0.25 percent food and beverage tax in Eau Claire and a maximum two percent room tax for area hotels.

The legislation is being introduced by Senator Terry Moulton and is backed by other local lawmakers. The city would use the funds for a future expo center on Menomonie Street, which would be used for trade shows, events, and sporting activities.

The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce recently joined the conversation on the subject. “We’re only supporting it being available as a tool for the community if it’s needed,” said Scott Rogers,
Rogers says the Chamber would only support this if it will bring a “tangible increase in tourism” to the city.

“This has to support tourism so we’re working with Visit Eau Claire, we’re getting some languages put into the bill that will help control that and promise that any money raised goes to those specific things. That’s when we’re step in and support the project itself,” said Dave Minor, President/CEO of the Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce.

Some local restaurant owners say they have concerns.

"We deal with a lot of banquets and catering where you have a little bit larger bills where that 0.25 percent can actually mean a lot of money to a lot of people," said Jack Schulte, Owner of Yankee Jack’s Public House in Eau Claire.

Schulte says he’s concerns people will look elsewhere for their catering needs if a tax is imposed. "Not saying it’s good or bad but we just need to be educated on exactly what the plan is," said Schulte.

He says restaurant owners need to be included in the conversation on this. The local chamber agrees. "If there is kick back or the community doesn’t want it or the industry people don’t want it, we're not pushing this,” said Minor.

Minor says there's still a lot that needs to happen such as community meetings and talks with businesses and industries that would be impacted. This potential tax increase isn’t completely up to lawmakers. It can only be approved through a referendum by Eau Claire voters.

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