River Parish bar owners upset over sin taxes

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 18, 2005


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – A proposed hike on so-called “sin taxes” by Governor Kathleen Blanco in order to raise teacher salaries has some local bar owners shaking their heads.

At the legislative session starting April 25, Blanco will attempt to get the legislature to pass the tax increase on alcohol, cigarettes, and gambling. Blanco said the new taxes, which would generate approximately $120 million, would not only go to public school teachers, but also to school support workers.

Some bar owners are feeling there needs to be a better way.

Karen, owner of Cliff’s Tavern in LaPlace, questioned why teachers have not already gotten pay raises through other means.

“Teachers work hard, and they deserve everything we can give them and more,” she said, “but that’s why I voted for the lottery.”

The hikes would put a 25 percent tax on beer, a 100 percent tax on wine, and a 36 percent tax on liquor, as well as a 50-cents per-pack increase on cigarettes and 9 percent tax on video poker.

Frank Catalano, owner of Sport’s Pub & Grill in Destrehan, said that while he does not think the proposed tax would hurt his business, he is not happy about the harm it will do to his


“I think they need to find another source for the money, these are our businesses,” he said.

Karen stressed concerns that it would hurt her business and felt that bar owners were being treated unfairly.

“We’re just a little neighborhood bar, and I’m just trying to make a living here,” she said, “Most bar owners I know are just trying to make a living like everyone else.”

Though the gambling tax applies to establishments such as bars, restaurants and truck stops, riverboat casinos and land casinos such as Harrah’s New Orleans would be exempt.

“Why hit us? Why don’t they hit the big-time companies?”Catalano asked, “Don’t hit the small businesses.”

“If we got to do it, then they got to do it,” he said.

Karen expressed the same sentiment, saying that if anyone should be taxed, it should be the big casinos.

“They are making more money than us,” she said, “we’re just the little guy.”

According to Denise Botcher, spokeswoman for the governor’s office, Harrah’s has a whole different statutory requirement from other casinos, so that in of itself does not include it.

When the governor’s office looked into the riverboat casinos, they came to the conclusion they were being taxed enough.

“We felt they were being taxed an appropriate level,” Botcher said, “and taxed what they could sustain.”

Blanco said that the tax hike would lead to a pay raise of $1,000 for every teacher. The proposal will need two-thirds of the vote in the House and Senate for the taxes to pass.

According to recent reports, some Republican lawmakers as well as lobbyists for the poker and beer industries are staunchly opposed.