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Winchester to Consider Increasing Meals Tax

In Winchester, anyone who eats at a local restaurant has to pay a Virginia state sales tax of 5.3%, and an additional meals tax of 5%. At least one person wants that tax increased to 6%.

Winchester, Va. -- In an effort to cover next year's fiscal budget, Winchester City Manager Dale Iman is proposing a meals tax increase.

"As a resident of Winchester, i understand the need to pay for city services,” said Terry Bohan, owner of El Centro Mexican Restaurant in Old Town. “As a restaurant owner, I’m a little apprehensive."

"If it benefits a specific project, maybe I would be more for it,” said Will Mason, owner of eM Restaurant, also in Old Town. “But for just a general tax grab, I’m definitely against it."

In Winchester, anyone who eats at a local restaurant has to pay a Virginia state sales tax of 5.3% and an additional meals tax of 5%.

"Oftentimes, when people look at their bill, they'll see the meals tax in addition to the state tax, and we'll be asked, ‘What is this tax for?’,” said Bohan.

Currently, Frederick County has a 4% meals tax, making them and places like Berryville, which has a 2% meals tax, more competitive choices for those looking to save.

"The restaurants don't benefit from the tax,” Bohan said, which is often a confusion of a city’s typical meals tax. “The restaurants collect that tax, and they pay that tax directly to the city."

While the proposed tax won't necessarily drive away tourists, residents will be the ones who ultimately pay.

"I’d say 80% to 85% of our business is locals. They're going to be the ones who are taking the brunt of this tax," said Mason.

This initiative is just a proposal and would need approval from the City Council.

Iman's proposal comes shortly before his July 1st retirement date.

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