Grants Pass Food and Beverage Tax is a No-Go

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — An attempt by Grants Pass City Council to introduce a 3% food and beverage tax without a public vote has failed. The City Council plans to place the contentious issue on the November general election ballot when the electorate can vote.


The $12 Residents Utility Tax Issue Goes to a Second Vote

Heated public exchanges at last week’s city council meeting saw the second proposed ordinance – a $12 utility fee tax added to residents’ water bills – also shunted to a second-round vote.

All sectors of the community will be liable to pay the water utility tax. While residents will pay a fixed monthly rate of $12, the commercial and industrial sectors will pay higher rates of taxation.

The introduction of these two taxes will fund the $3 million shortfall to continue providing 24/7 public safety services – policing and firefighting.

Related: Chamber Of Commerce Oppose New Food And Beverage Tax


Heated Debate at City Council Meeting

After listening to public comment for over an hour, the city council vote on the food and beverages tax failed by two votes – 5-3. Mayor Sara Bristol says the council has until 7 August to place the proposed ordinance on the November ballot. The Mayor says the council will start workshopping soon to prepare the wording and logistics of the meals tax ballot that must also be approved.

The city council meeting attracted a large crowd of residents keen to hear if the vote on the proposed taxes would be successful. Included in their ranks were several local restaurant owners and workers protesting a food and beverage tax. They believe that the food industry is being unfairly targeted by the tax.


ORLA Joins in the Anti-Tax Fight

Food industry disapproval is shared by the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association (ORLA) which will apply for a referendum if the food and beverage tax is introduced, according to Mayor Bristol.

ORLA representative Terry Hopkins says it is “beyond belief” that the city council would introduce a tax on an industry still reeling from the aftermath of the 2020 pandemic. ORLA points out that the hospitality industry continues to struggle with low profit margins. While it concedes the need to raise funding for policing and firefighting, to introduce a tax on one sector of the community, without public approval, is unbelievable.


The Need to Build a Sense of Community

City Councilor Joel King says there is a need to build a sense of community. He voted for the meals tax to go to the ballot but is in favor of a taxation ordinance to meet the financing needs of public safety and security.

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