BRUNSWICK COUNTY NC (WECT) - Neighbors and tourists visiting Brunswick County may have to pay more for their meals.
Brunswick County representatives in the state House, Deb Butler (D) and Frank Iler (R), filed House Bill 17 on Jan. 31. The bill would let county leaders in municipalities decide to tax prepared food and beverages up to 0.5 percent in addition to state and local taxes.
According to Iler, the money would be used for beach renourishment and to improve infrastructure and facilities, particularly in Oak Island and along the Southport waterfront.
It’s not the bill’s first time trying to make it as a law. The two representatives filed a version of the bill in 2017 that didn’t pass. It proposed taxing prepped food and beverages across the country, while this one lets leaders in the city or town decide if they want the tax.
“It’s not a million dollar meal, and it would help tourism,” Iler said.
The bill doesn’t include vending machines or grocery stores, other than sections of a store that sell prepared food and beverages.
The mayor of Southport said he was in favor of the bill in 2017, and now, to help with tourism.
“Southport is just like every other coastal town in North Carolina. We depend upon a lot of our tourists to come in and help us out," J.V. Dove said. “One of our main attractions is our waterfront. This tax, this half cent tax on food and beverages would help us maintain the beauty of our harbor down there.”
Leaders with the Southport Oak Island Chamber of Commerce have sent surveys to restaurant owners who are members of the chamber to gauge their views on the bill. They say so far, most of the owners they’ve talked to are against it.
Michael Goodwin owns Local’s Family Diner in Southport. He said he is on board with helping the area’s waterfront, but doesn’t agree with the tax.
“Any additional tax on small businesses would definitely hurt and impact the business," Goodwin said. “I think that should be done on a different level.”
Iler said he wants to make the bill just a referendum for voters. The bill passed its first read in the state House and was in the House committee on finance as of Feb. 13.