Local restaurants react to 2nd sales tax holiday weekend in Tennessee

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Restaurants were buzzing with customers picking up orders during Tennessee’s second sales tax holiday weekend.

For the first time in the Volunteer State, restaurant-goers could shop tax-free at restaurants and bars with seating for at least 40 patrons, Aug. 7 – 9.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many small businesses have been forced to close permanently, and this tax break is one measure state lawmakers took to address it.

“With what we’ve come through and the amount of small businesses that are hurting and out of business now, I think it’s hugely important that we do what we can to help them get their feet back under them,” Tennessee Rep. Bud Hulsey told News Channel 11 in June when the original bill was passed.

News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais spoke to local restaurant owners about how this sales tax holiday weekend impacted them.

“Well, unfortunately, so far, it hasn’t really helped at all. We were hoping that it would bring in a little more sales volume but, unfortunately, it just really hasn’t and I think people are like going to chain restaurants and things like that who are advertising on television and stuff,” Mid City Grill Owner Steven Garnett said Saturday.

He said that the coronavirus pandemic has immensely impacted his business.

“It’s affected us pretty harshly, I would say sales are down over 50 percent,” he told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais. “It’s pretty hard because we support the mask mandate so we enforce it, and a lot of people aren’t interested in that, a lot of businesses around aren’t enforcing it so they’ll just go there instead if they don’t want to wear one.”

In Elizabethton, Jiggy Ray’s Downtown Pizzeria Owner John “Bull” Malone said he appreciated everything state lawmakers had done leading to this sales tax break for his customers.

“I think the tax-free holidays has been a great thing, a great idea by the state government and we’re just very appreciative that they would make that effort,” he said.

Malone told News Channel 11’s Bianca Marais that this tax break holiday meant a constant string of customers picking up curbside orders all weekend.

“It’s been amazing. I didn’t think much about it, I knew that last weekend was the retail tax holiday and this weekend being the restaurant holiday. We just kind of posted on Facebook, we have our specials like a $10 1-topping pizza specials and when you can go get a 16-inch pizza and hand somebody a $10 bill, no tax, I mean it’s a great thing, not just for us to attract customers but also for the customers who get a great deal and save a few bucks during Lord knows this is probably the hardest time most of us have been through financially,” he added.

The holiday began at 12:01 a.m. on August 7 and runs until 11:59 p.m. on August 9.

According to the Tennessee Department of Revenue, this is a one-time holiday during 2020 only.

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