JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Tennessee Governor Bill Lee proposed a budget amendment to include nearly $100 million for a two-week sales tax holiday on all grocery sales, purchases at restaurants, and all prepared food.
Local restaurants and Food City officials told News Channel 11 they are thrilled by the proposed amendment.
“I think it’s a great thing, it will help everyone across the state, not just in downtown but everyone,” said Cory Bachetti of Red Meze in Downtown Johnson City. “I mean, if it’s going to bring people out and help stimulate the economy and kind of get downtown and the surrounding areas rolling again, it’d be great, we definitely need it.”
The proposed two-week sales tax holiday has been calculated to amount to roughly $25 million for groceries, and $75 million for restaurants and prepared food.
“I think it’s a great idea what the Governor has proposed through his budget amendment, certainly Tennessee had a very successful year this year in sales tax collection and I think this is a good way to give the money back to the hard working men and women in Tennessee wit the sales tax holiday, as I understand it, it would be proposed the first two weeks in July, which is a great time for people to gather certainly it benefits restaurants as well as supermarkets, but it’s also prepared food in supermarkets, So I think it’s a fantastic time I think it would benefit people’s budget, to be able to get some of those tax dollars back and we fully support what the governor’s proposed,” Food City President and CEO Steve Smith said.
This budget proposal still has to go before the General Assembly for approval, but local food purveyors are hopeful it will pass.
“I want to applaud the governor, you know, for taking the initiative to encourage consumers to come out, give them an incentive to come out. By having a little tax break, you know they’re going to save a little money. And it’s not just for any particular individual, you know this is a tax break- $100 million in the state of Tennessee communities hands. So, as opposed to money going to the government they decide where it’s going, I think a lot of people feel like I would rather, give me a chance to save my own money, you know, and I think it can be a good thing for everybody. Now, in a time, like I know everybody, every agency, every industry needs money, needs help and as I don’t know what I would hate to be put in a position where I had to decide where the money is best spent because there are so many needs and so many industries that just need our help right now so, but I do applaud the governor, and I thank them for like I said, giving people a reason to come out to eat again. It has been tough, all of us,” Jiggy Ray’s Owner John Malone said.
For struggling restaurants, this boost of customers could be life-changing.
“I think that it could help similarly to the stimulus checks that people were getting that will just give people more of an upper hand at going out and spending money that they wouldn’t otherwise have like, even the extra here and there of taxes, add up. I think it would be great for businesses especially local businesses who have been having a harder time catching up with everything,” said Jennifer Sanchez of Ole’s Guacamole.
Other restaurant owners agreed with Sanches.
“It’s been tough on everybody but I do love the idea that this gives consumers a chance, every consumer has a chance to save a little bit of money. You know without them having to write a check, just simply saying you know what, ‘go enjoy yourself, take a break and take a load off enjoy your family, take your family out to eat and save a little bit of money so I think it would be a good thing for all of us,” Malone added.
In 2020, Tennessee hosted its first-ever sales tax-free weekend holiday for restaurants.
“I don’t think too many people knew about it I don’t think there’s a lot of publicity beforehand, one or two people came in but they were city workers who happen to know about it, everyone else just the general public, seemed to be a little bit out of the loop,” Bachetti said.
He hopes with the 2021 sales tax-free weekend being extended to two weeks, consumers will hear the news and take advantage of it.
“We look forward to seeing everybody, can’t wait to have everyone come down and support all the local businesses,” Bachetti said. “It brings more people out and people are going to enjoy spending money seeing good food we’re having a patio open, or the indoor outdoor dining so whatever brings people out I think will be good.”