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La Vista considers 1.5 percent restaurant and drink tax

Posted at 10:16 PM, Jul 30, 2019

LA VISTA, Neb. (KMTV) — Almost a decade ago the city of Omaha began taxing restaurants and bars to pay for city priorities, now another metro city wants to do the same.

The La Vista city council will hold a hearing next month on a one and a half percent restaurant tax, taxing everything from fast-food joints to bars to coffee shops.

Hard Bean Coffee opened up about a year and a half ago and the owners are still establishing their reputation in town.

If the tax goes through, one owner says it'll be even harder to get new customers in the building.

A few weeks ago, the owners of Hard Bean Coffee got a letter in the mail, alerting them a restaurant tax could be coming.

"I have to say my heart kind of sank. Initially it's one of fear and anxiety because the first thing you think of is, we're very much a small business,” says Suzanne Sutmeier, operations specialist of Hard Bean Coffee.

Sutmeier says bigger coffee chains like Starbucks can absorb the cost of the tax, but it's different for a place like hard bean.

"We feel every penny, even that wasted napkin that get thrown on the ground and not used,” says Sutmeier.

She wouldn't be surprised if people take their business to Papillion or even Bellevue, where no tax exists.

"Are you going to spend a little extra money to promote a small business like us or are you going to keep traveling on by to say Papillion, where you can go to a bigger chain and not pay that additional money,” says Sutmeier.

But Mayor of La Vista Doug Kindig says the extra cash would help fund a number of projects, including the 84th street development. Which he thinks will bring lots of folks to La Vista.

"We could have 400,000-500,000 visitors a day most of those being non-La Vista residents. If a very small percentage of those choose not to come to La Vista, I think we're still going to show a positive number,” says Kindig.

Kindig says it's not just 84th street. They want to update parks and the sewer system, among other priorities, Everything gets pushed back if the extra tax is not pushed through.

"It's going to slow down some of our projects, it's going to slow down some of our growth. We will adapt to that,” says Kindig.

Kindig got unexpected resistance yesterday when Governor Pete Ricketts tweeted his opposition.

Kindig says they talked it over on the phone and he wishes they would have done so before the governor pressed send.

"So my choice is going to be, I'm not going to use mainstream media or social media to air my concerns, I think that's the right way to handle things,” says Kindig.

Still, Mayor Kindig is cautiously optimistic the council will vote yes. They'll take up the issue August 20th.