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Petition Urges Cancellation of Business Taxes to Lessen COVID-19 Impact on Texas Bars

As the coronavirus takes its toll on local bars and restaurants, owners cry out for economic relief

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Nadia Chaudhury is the editor of Eater Austin covering food and pop culture, as well as a photographer, writer, and frequent panel moderator and podcast guest.

A new petition urges the State of Texas to cancel or delay the upcoming collection of mixed-beverage and sales taxes, amid the current novel coronavirus pandemic. Many restaurants, bars, distilleries, breweries, and wineries are closing or greatly modifying service models to help lessen the spread of the virus, thus leading to a major loss of income.

Stephanie Houston, the co-founder of Hill Country distillery Hye Rum, started the petition to highlight the ongoing hardships Texas businesses are facing during this pandemic. “Businesses are in jeopardy and can use any and all assistance,” she wrote in the petition, which has been signed by over 2,000 individuals.

Houston noticed that business at the distillery was slower this past weekend, and knows that it’s been the same for other similar establishments. “I know that everyone is thinking about cash flow,” she told Eater. “When you are customer-facing, you are not only the most at risk of becoming ill, but also of being the first to suffer economic losses when things are slow.”

Mixed beverage gross receipts taxes and sales taxes, which establishments that sell, prepare, or serve mixed beverages must pay on a monthly basis, are due by Friday, March 20. The cash relief that would be provided by the cancellation or delay of tax payments would allow these businesses to stay open and pay their employees.

Texas businesses received an email from the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts office today reminding recipients about how they can still pay their taxes through its website. As of this time, the comptroller’s office confirmed, there has been no decision to delay the deadlines.

Other restaurant industry workers have made similar pleas. Olamaie server Arjav Ezekiel put together his own petition asking the City of Austin and Mayor Steve Adler to require that landlords charge “at cost” residential rents for service industry employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as their livelihoods are directly impacted by their employers’ decisions to shutter or modify service. In NYC, New York State Restaurant Association and the New York City Hospitality Alliance released an extensive plan calling on officials to grant extensions or suspensions on tax payments, enact rent subsidies, cap food delivery service fees, and consider other potentially business-saving measures. (NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson echoed the request on Twitter.)

In Texas, Houston is hoping that the petition will catch the attention of Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar so that they’ll take action. While currently available federal tax credits could help, “they don’t help with immediate cash flow issues,” explained Houston.

“At this point in time, I think anything we know for sure is beyond helpful in a disaster planning situation.”