Proposed new tax on restaurants to help homeless might be toast after city council committee withdrawals bill

A proposal to impose a new tax on Jacksonville restaurants and hotels to help the homeless population has hit a major roadblock.

The City Council Rules Committee withdrew the bill today.

Councilman Raul Arias, the owner of Mamba’s Cuban Café who was not on the special committee but attended the meeting, said that even though the bill was withdrawn he feels just having the conversation was a win.

After hours of discussion Monday, the Jacksonville City Council rules committee voted to withdraw the J1 Bill and not send it to Tallahassee.

The proposed tax to help the homeless would have come from food and beverages sold at restaurants and hotels, similar to a model used in Miami-Dade County.

In Miami, a one-percent tax on patrons at well-to-do restaurants goes to the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust. The tax only applies to those dining at restaurants with liquor licenses that bring in at least $400,000 a year.

During the meeting, people in the community had the chance to share their thoughts.

“We are trying with all of our might to care for the homeless population, and it is overwhelming us. I had a man walking up to me during my sermon acting out we’re trying to keep our people safe – this is a crisis. We’re asking for you to simply initiate a conversation,” said Rev. Kate Moorehead Carroll, Dean of St. Johns Episcopal Cathedral.

Other restaurant owners like Arias were against the bill.

“We just came out of COVID. We’ve had a hard time with inflation. The price of goods is going up. Labor wages are going up. Labor wages will go up again in September, and credit card fees are going up,” Arias said.

He said adding another tax to their customers would damage their industry.

“I’ve had many people tell me that they don’t go out to eat anymore dine in, they’d rather take out to not have to pay tips because everything’s just too expensive. So adding an additional tax or just increase that,” he said.

In the end, the bill was withdrawn by Councilman Michael Boylan and the rest of the committee.

Arias said he and his colleagues are now planning ways to handle the homeless crisis in a different way.

Arias says that even though the bill was withdrawn it is possible it could be proposed again at a later date.

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