Monday, July 13, 2009

Beginning of the end of the City's admissions tax

Chuck Wrenn at Shenanigans' 2008 Christmas party
(photo by Artie Probst)

Standing outside the Greater Richmond Convention Center, on the morning of July 7, Chuck Wrenn and I talked about the extraordinary meeting we had just attended. And, of course, we digressed a bit into talking about old times, as we tend to do when we get together these days.

In 1972 Chuck and I were part of the original staff that opened the Biograph Theatre at 814 W. Grace St. We've been partners in lots of projects since then, but not so much in the last 15 or so years. It was at the Biograph we first came to grasp what a problem the City of Richmond's admissions tax posed to movie theaters and anybody else who sold tickets to any kind of show.

It was probably 35 years ago that Sam Benheim, the then-general manager of Neighborhood Theatres (the dominant chain in Richmond at that time), told me how the tax got started. He claimed it was during World War II that the concept of an admissions tax began in Richmond -- the money went to war bonds.

When the war ended Richmond's city council decided to keep the tax money the public had gotten used to paying, it was maybe four percent then.

Later the percentage crept up. A few years ago it went to seven percent, where it is now.

Doug Conner, 9th District representative on city council, ran the informal meeting, which was hosted by the convention center’s manager, Mike Meyers. Among those who were also in attendance were: the executive director of the Greater Richmond New Car Dealer Association -- Johnny Cates; the president of the Arts Council (soon to be known as CultureWorks) -- John Bryan; the originator of RVANews -- Ross Catrow; representatives of the Byrd Theatre and some guys who work for the City.

Since then several others have come forward to say they want to be at the ad hoc committee's next meeting. It's not a big snowball, yet, but it's rolling.

Click here to read my most recent attempt to explain why the admissions tax should be 86ed, ASAP.

Chuck kept expressing his amazement that after all these years someone in City Hall is finally listening to the case for removing the tax. It's great to be teamed up with him again. And, yes, I'll take a shot of that Bushmills Chuck is offering in the photo above, to celebrate the beginning of the end of Richmond's admissions tax.

More news soon...

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