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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Syracuse Common Council: Festival Beer and Wine Tax is Painless and Necessary

Syracuse is my hometown, so a recent news report about a potential new tax at outdoor festivals in the center of the city caught my eye. A number of non-profit groups host festivals in Clinton Square that draw thousands of people to a downtown where bars and restaurants can use the spill over business. On Monday the Syracuse Common Council will vote on a proposal to impose a 12.5 percent tax on beer and wine sold at these events.

On one side of the ledger are event organizers who take all of the risk to bring in entertainment, pay for tents and staging, and shell out cash to promote the events. If bad weather hits, they usually will lose money. Sometimes beer and wine sales mean the difference between a profit or a loss. On the other side is the city of Syracuse, which does not charge rent for the use of Clinton Square for the events, but says it spends $350,000 each year for police coverage and clean up after events. They say the new tax will cover just a portion of those costs.

Towns big and small across the United States struggle to maintain a sense of community as suburban sprawl increases and people from different economic, social and racial backgrounds find fewer and fewer reasons to come together as a group. Keeping places like Clinton Square available and profitable for music and cultural festivals is more important than most people realize.

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