Increased booze tax has bar owners up in arms

Increased booze tax has bar owners up in arms »Play Video
SEDRO-WOOLLEY, Wash. -- Complaints about rowdy drunks in one Skagit County town are creating a controversy over who should pay for the trouble they cause.

The city of Sedro-Woolley just slapped bar owners with a huge increase in their business license fee.

The recently-passed ordinance bumps the business license tax on establishments that sell alcohol from $35 to $250 per year, and that's not sitting well with bar owners.

"Singled out. You definitely feel singled out," said Brandy Montnay, who manages Smiley's Bar.

The tax increase might not be welcome news to liquor sellers, but city leaders say it's only fair.

"You can't deny the fact that alcohol-related businesses generate more calls for service," said city supervisor Eron Berg. "There is a cost associated with that, and that's the issue. Who pays for that cost."

Jennifer Eldred owns a consulting firm in Sedro-Woolley and supports the new tax. She said rude bar customers have left an assortment of inappropriate things outside her entrance.

"It ranges from vomit to feces, the smell of urine. I've found panties and used condoms," Eldred said. "The items left behind would not be left behind by you and me if we hadn't been drinking."

The new tax is expected to raise about $6,000 a year, and city leaders say every dollar counts when they're looking at laying off one municipal worker and essentially cutting everybody else's pay five percent to balance the budget.

No matter what local politicians and business owners say, Montnay still believes the new tax will only hurt the little guys who are already feeling the financial pinch.

"It may be a bar or bar and grill, but it's no different than any other business," she said. "I'm here to make money and put money back into the community."