In a final kick in the ass to those who enjoy what’s left of Atlanta’s nightlife, a lame-duck City Council supported a lame-duck mayor’s wish to tax beer, wine and liquor even more.
Yes, that’s right. Mayor Shirley Franklin and many of the same council members who supported the 2003 rolling back of bar hours now want boozers to pay even more, whether you buy your liquor, beer and wine by the crate, bottle or glass. A lot more, actually.
The proposal, which the City Council unanimously approved Nov. 16, calls for a 66 percent spike in the excise tax for drinks, from 3 percent to 5 percent; creating a new 3 percent per drink tax for beer and wine — there currently is no excise tax on those; and a 33 percent jump, from .22 per liter to .33, in the wholesale alcohol excise tax. The move could mean big bucks for the city. The new taxes would add an estimated $10.7 million a year to the $14.8 million the taxes already generate.
The push for the new taxes comes as part of the city’s 2010 Legislative Package, an annual effort to convince state lawmakers to help the city they love to hate when they return to the Gold Dome next month. Thankfully, at least in this specific instance, the Republican-controlled state legislature is loathe to help our Democrat-rich metropolis and the taxes are likely to die.
The new tax proposals are striking for a couple of reasons. Beyond the fact that the mayor and city council already hit property owners with higher taxes this year, they come as Franklin and several council members, including lesbian Anne Fauver, end their terms. Nothing like kicking taxpayers in the ass as you head out the door.
It also came just before the mayor and council slammed the door on the idea of even forming a committee to study a proposal to return to later closing times to 4 a.m. They want tax revenue but don’t want to even consider the idea that late-night revelers might want a little more time to enjoy their nightlife. It also seems a little odd that city leaders want to increase their take from alcohol taxes by upping the tax rates, but don’t see that expanding bar hours would also generate more revenue.
And all of that follows the shotgun approach the mayor and council took six years ago in addressing nightlife-oriented problems. Rather than deal directly with unruly crowds in Buckhead, they penalized the entire city by cutting bar hours to 2:30 a.m. from 4 a.m. in 2003. Now they hope to lean on the already-dulled nightlife of the city to add to its coffers. They used an ax to address a problem that a scalpel could have fixed.
Rather than tax the city’s nightlife to death, the new mayor and City Council ought to focus on making it more vibrant, which in turn would create more revenue. We can drink to that.