Mayor Nancy Vaughan’s first meeting on the possible prepared food tax, didn’t go well.

Trying to convince restaurant and bar owners that they need to pay more taxes than everyone else is a tough sell, and Vaughan didn’t appear to have any buyers among the 20 or so restaurant people present at the two hour meeting on Monday, July 17 at Windows on Elm on North Elm St.

The tax increase Vaughan is pushing is for an additional 1 percent tax on prepared food, usually called a restaurant tax.  It would reportedly bring in about $12 million a year.

Vaughan started the meeting with a PowerPoint presentation of about 45 minutes – much of it about tourism, in particular youth sports tourism in Greensboro. During the comment period after the presentation, former mayoral candidate Eric Robert noted that Vaughan’s presentation had been about 30 minutes too long – and that was among the nicest comments heard from the audience.

One of the other complaints from restaurant owners was that there was so much crime in the streets that they had to close at midnight instead of being open until 2 a.m., and now they are going to be asked to pay more taxes.

One person said that if the revenue from the proposed restaurant tax was going to be spent on police, he would be more inclined to support it.

Vaughan said in her presentation that both Mecklenburg and Wake counties as well as other jurisdictions in the state had a prepared food tax and that Greensboro needed to have the same taxing authority to compete.

Hal Blevins of Machete restaurant said, “It’s hard to do business in Greensboro.  We can’t do things they can do in Mecklenburg County.  We can’t do the things they do in Wake County.”

Vaughan said, “People I talk to say that Greensboro is a very easy place to do business.”

This brought a lot of comments all at once; none seemed to be in agreement.  One speaker said, “Anybody in here ever had the city help you with anything, raise your hand.”

No hands were raised, but a lot of grumbling was heard.

Isabel Villa-Garcia of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association asked. if the goal was to get more revenue from people visiting Greensboro, why not raise the sales tax instead of picking on one industry.

Vaughan said that the past two attempts to increase the sales tax in Guilford County had failed.

About 20 restaurant owners attended the meeting and along with Vaughan. Representing the city was City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba, City Attorney Chuck Watts, Intergovernmental Relations Manager LaToya Caesar-Crawford, a couple of IT people and a couple of people from the Communications and Marketing Department.

President and CEO of the Greensboro Sports Foundation Richard Beard spoke about the need for more and upgraded facilities for sports tourism.