NewsLocal News


Public hearing over Blackstone occupation tax Tuesday

Posted at 12:09 PM, Sep 25, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-26 07:03:10-04

The Omaha City Council will hear public opinion Tuesday night on a proposed occupation tax in the Blackstone District to help revive the Blackstone Hotel.

Last week, it was announced that an additional two percent tax was being considered for bars and restaurants in Blackstone. 

If approved, the occupation tax would bring in $22 million in addition to $8 million in TIF funding. 

Developers hoping to restore the Blackstone Hotel are asking the city for more than $30 million coming in the form of an occupation tax and TIF financing.

GreenSlate Development principal Matt Dwyer spoke to the importance of the project at the city council meeting Tuesday.

"Pursue this project and bring this iconic building back to life as it was in its former glory as a hotel," Dwyer said.

GreenSlate Development says there is only one way this project moves forward, and it is with an occupation tax. That means the price of a night out at places like Crescent Moon may cost a little more.

Owner Bill Baburek changed his mind a few days ago, he supports the tax now.

"You know, it's like anything else," Baburek said. "There was cost and risk when I opened this place all those years ago."

But what about the people in his restaurant or others strolling through the neighborhood who would pay the higher prices?

"I think [the hotel] would do a good job," One man leaving Butterfish said. "I think [it] would bring in a lot of business down here."

Others think different.

"It really doesn't make much sense to me," another man said. "I just don't think there should be more tax on the people."

Supporters say the largest portion of the tax would be paid by people visiting Omaha, not residents.

"The fact that the largest component of the tax structure is on the hotel activity, I think the assumption can be made that the majority or the brunt of that tax implications are going to be borne by out of town guests," Kevin Anderson, Omaha deputy chief of staff, said.

When you add the proposed occupation tax to the current sales and restaurant taxes, customers would pay almost 12 percent tax on every dollar they spend in Blackstone.

Baburek says most Blackstone businesses see this as worth it.

"Blackstone hasn't been around that long, development has gone by quickly, so we don't want to stand in the way of something this major," Baburek said.

Owners from Butterfish, Corkscrew Wine & Cheese, Mula, Scriptown Brewing Company and Stirnella Bar & Kitchen told city council members they support the proposal.