Councillor Bob Bell has it right — again.
Councillor Bell on the matter of a bar seat levy, as reported in one of the best articles I’ve read by Guelph Mercury reporter Rob Flanagan:
“Over the years, the costs to maintain order in the downtown late at night have increased year over year over year,” said Bell. “And the profits that the bar owners have had due to this increased traffic and higher liquor sales have made them very rich. At the same time, the general public has been cleaning up the mess, and has been paying for the additional police. That’s not fair taxation.”
Now, he added, bar owners have been given special treatment that allows downtown streets to be closed off in the interest of public safety on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
Most other organizations would have to pay for that privilege, but not bar owners, he said. Instead, the general public is paying for such things as tow trucks to remove vehicles from the streets within the downtown bar zone. An average of 24 police officers polices the area at peak times “at an incredibly high cost.”
This heavy police presence is directly linked to alcohol consumption in downtown establishments and the volatility that results from it, Bell indicated. The Guelph Police budget is increasing as a result.
“The street closures are further enabling more liquor sales,” Bell said. “Now you can fall down in the middle of the street and not get run over.”
Williams acknowledged that there are challenges associated with the vibrant bar scene in the downtown. But Guelph should consider itself lucky to have such businesses that contribute to a lively entertainment district day and night.
Various stakeholders are working together on addressing the challenges, including the business community, city staff, police, the province, and the University of Guelph, “and we don’t need this distraction and this kind of noise from something that is really unproductive.”
But Bell said taxpayers are enabling a better business environment for bar owners, and that is not fair.
“I hear we are facing an 8.5 per cent tax increase,” said Bell. “Part of that increase is due to additional measures in the downtown. Why would the general public be paying for those additional measures? We are taxing the wrong people.”