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Eating Out In Durham May Take A Bigger Bite Out Of Your Wallet

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DURHAM — In Durham, eating out could soon take a bigger bite out of your wallet. City and county leaders want a tax on meals and a sales tax to pay for pet projects and city improvements.

The proposal to add a one percent meal tax is already giving some of the patrons at Rick's Diner a bad case of indigestion.

"There's enough taxes on meals and other things that I just don't want any more taxes," says meal tax opponent Reitzel Morgan.

"I think it's ridiculous. I mean we pay enough taxes already so I think one more percent what is that going to do? Nothing," says Millie Cardwell, who also opposes the meal tax.

The city believes the tax would raise between $2 and $3 million. The money would be used to fund arts and entertainment projects such as a new downtown theater proposed for theAmerican Tobacco Warehouse.

"If we have a series of projects that people believe in that should be funded, I think they'll support the idea," says Durham Mayor Nick Tennyson. "If we just try to submit a blank check, I don't think we'll get support."

"Durham could use some extra something downtown. I lived here 30 years ago, and downtown was much more vibrant at that time than it is now," says theater supporter Bill Quick.

Some proponents of the meal tax have suggested the tax should kick in at a certain dollar amount. Restaurant owners worry that would amount to an accounting nightmare.

"It would be extremely hard," says restaurant owner Rick Lynch. "It would be very hard to do -- almost impossible to do."

The city council will vote on the meal tax proposal next week. Thelegislaturemust give Durham permission to raise taxes. The issue may even go before the voters.

While the meal tax does not make a huge difference on your dinner check, it does have a big impact on the community.

For example, a meal tax helped pay for the Entertainment and Sports Arena, construction of an IMAX theater, renovations to Five County Stadium and some exhibits at Natural Science Museum.

Local governments also approved using the tax to build a soccer complex in Cary that will host youth leagues and a professional women's team.

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Christine Rogers, Reporter
Adrienne Traxinger, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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