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City meal tax would harm restaurants, diners

Dining and DrinkingRestaurantsHealth InsuranceStephanie Rawlings-Blake

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's suggestion that she might one day seek to raise taxes on restaurant meals in Baltimore City may be the worst idea regarding affordable dining since Marie Antoinette's injunction "then let them eat cake" ("Health costs too high, mayor says," Feb. 21).

Virtually no one likes to pay tax on top of the cost of a meal in a restaurant. Price is almost always a factor for diners eating out. Because there are roughly an equal number of fine dining establishments in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, why not dine where one can save a few bucks for a comparable meal?

City residents could be encouraged to drive to the county to dine less expensively if such a hike is enacted. An increase would also create a disincentive for county residents to come into the city to eat. The result would be less money going into the city coffers, not more. The only thing that will increase in the city is restaurant failures because of the drop in patrons.

But suppose instead of increasing the city's restaurant tax the mayor backed a plan under which restaurants voluntarily paid the current meal tax in lieu of patrons paying it. That would be a gimmick few diners could resist.

City restaurants would thrive — it's all about volume — more meals would be served, more checks would be paid and restaurant tax receipts would pour into the city treasury.

Joseph Johnson, Towson

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    Dining and DrinkingRestaurantsHealth InsuranceStephanie Rawlings-Blake