The Charlotte chapter of the states restaurant and lodging lobbying group said Wednesday that money set aside for the Convention Center could be a way to pay for renovations at Bank of America Stadium.
Tom Sasser, the chairman of the Charlotte chapter of the N.C. Restaurant and Lodging Association, also said the citys financial help for the Carolina Panthers shouldnt solely rely on the restaurant industry and our patrons.
The Panthers have asked the city for $125 million to help renovate their 17-year-old stadium, as part of a plan to spend $250 million on upgrades. To help the team, city staff has proposed in closed session increasing the local prepared food and beverage tax from 1 percent to 2 percent, according to several people familiar with the meeting.
But increasing the so-called meals tax prompted pushback from the states lobbying group for restaurants. In a letter to Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx last week, the state associations chairman, Brad Hurley, criticized the proposed tax increase and also said the city should be discussing it in open session.
Sasser wrote Foxx Wednesday to give the Charlottes chapters position.
Sassers was less confrontational than the state associations letter. He said the local chapter agrees that renovations should be done so that the stadium and the team can continue to be successful.
Sasser is president and owner of Harpers Restaurant Group, which owns three Harpers Restaurants, Mimosa Grill and Zinc American Kitchen, among others. He has served on the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority and isnt opposed to the current 1 percent tax on prepared food and beverages, which funds the Convention Center.
The CRVA manages the Convention Center for the city.
In his letter to Foxx, Sasser said he is concerned about a Republican proposal in Raleigh to roll back the states income and corporate taxes. That revenue would be replaced by a higher sales tax. That increase, coupled with the proposed tax hike for the Panthers, could be devastating to our businesses, Sasser wrote.
The citys Convention Center fund currently has additional money due to old debt being retired. The Observer reported Wednesday that the Convention Centers extra money could fund $110 million of new debt, which is close to the amount the Panthers have requested.
Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble has said that money should be used for its intended purpose, the Convention Center.
State law mandates that money be used for the Convention Center or for tourism promotion.
But the city could ask the General Assembly for the ability to shift that money for the Panthers. Any increase in the prepared food and beverage tax would also have to be approved by state legislators.
Foxx was asked before Wednesdays meeting of the Metropolitan Transit Commission whether he had spoken with the states restaurant lobbying association.
The short answer is Im always willing to talk to constituents about issues of concern, Foxx said.
The mayor declined to discuss the proposed tax increase because it was debated in closed session.
So much of what is out there now is the cart before the horse, Foxx said.