SETTLE UP - City council triples seat tax for some Old Port bars

Note: The original post incorrectly stated that councilor Will Gorham opposed the seat tax increase. He in fact supported it.

Last night, in a marathon Portland city council meeting about next year's city budget, the council passed a significant operational tax increase on some Old Port bar owners. As part of the $256.6 million budget, the controversial Bar Occupancy Fee, otherwise known as the "seat tax" was more than tripled from $4.50 per occupant with a $1500 cap to $15 per occupant without a cap. Only bars in the Old Port overlay zone, an area encompassing the most densely commercial blocks in the Old Port, have to pay the seat tax. So, for example, while Gritty McDuff's on Fore Street must pay the seat tax, Ri Ra on Commercial Street, outside of the overlay zone, does not.

Affected bar owners, predictably, are upset about the increase, which will drain them of thousands more in taxes. The fee increase would raise $60,000 (above the $20,000 annually raised by the current rate) and proponents said the increase is necessary to pay for police coverage of the area. The seat tax is one of dozens of fee increases passed as part of last night's budget in an attempt to pay for city services without relying more on revenue from property taxes.

City mayor Jim Cohen proposed a slimmer increase on the per-seat tax of only $9, with a cap of no more than $3000 total seat tax from any one establishment, but his idea eventually failed in a vote of 7 - 2. Cohen and Cheryl Leeman were opposed.


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