In a meeting about the Richmond Region Cultural Action Plan yesterday, I heard that representatives from the city and various organizations had been engaged earlier in the day in a discussion about Richmond's moderately absurd admissions tax -- essentially, a 7% exercise in pickpocketing as Richmond.com's F.T. Rea explains:
"It" is the seven percent tax The City of Richmond extracts from every dollar for an admission ticket that changes hands within its boundaries. Richmond’s "admissions tax" comes off the top of the gross, before any other splits or payments are made.
Now, in this time of upheaval and change, some progressive thinkers in Richmond are zeroing in on how to allay the admissions tax The City collects from the Byrd Theatre, the Siegel Center, Poe’s Pub, and every business in town that sells tickets or collects a cover charge at the door.
By the way, Chesterfield County and Henrico County don’t have such a tax. Which means movie distributors know it’s usually better for them to ship a print of their feature film to a cinema house in the suburbs.
During yesterday's discussion, a couple of interesting anecdotes were shared.
The first was that the Byrd Theatre essentially needs to sell an extra 5,800 tickets every year to pay the admissions tax. For a movie house with one screen that seats (at most) twice a night, that's at least 10 extra tickets for every movie they show.
The second was a little more abstract. If a promoter was bringing a $1 million show through Virginia, he'd make $70,000 less in Richmond than in Charlottesville or Norfolk -- all things being equal. Guess where he's not likely to spend too much time haggling for dates?
The admissions tax in Richmond is not unique. Unlike, Charlottesville, most cities in Virginia have such a tax; the rate varies. Which only means backward thinking exists in lots of places.
By the way, there’s no admissions tax in Austin or Nashville. In those two cities, known for their great live music scenes, the thinking appears to be more enlightened than what has prevailed here.
Richmond took in $2,447,670 in admissions taxes in 2008. No doubt, any spokesperson for The City will say Richmond needed that money.
Meanwhile, Gallery5's Amanda Robinson is about to have an aneurysm over on her Facebook page. Here's the string of Facebook updates she posted after receiving notice from the City of Richmond that Gallery5 needs to pay the city 7% of each show by the 20th of each month, or risk being shut down:
I can keep silent no longer. If my organization goes down because of our greedy city, we will go down with pride. Our city is supposed to be supporting its Historic Landmarks, instead it took a struggling non-profit gallery to try to keep our landmark standing. Now, the city wants to charge us for not being up to code, not paying specific taxes that we should not be paying anyways, and other fees....
...associated with the upkeep of our space. They want US to pay THEM??? My ass!! They want us to pay them a % of our shows under this Admissions Tax Law, when no one gets payed in our space and we can barely keep our head afloat. This admissions tax that is lumped in with the....Meals Tax?? Did you know that a large % of our meals tax was taken from the homeless... to allocate to... CENTERSTAGE????
No wonder, our city is now hassling all of this struggling businesses, restaurants, bars, venues, non-profits, etc and trying to get us to give them MORE money. I say NO! I say that our city government, not our tax payers, struggling non-profits and historic buildings should pay for their sketchy business practices.
I cannot keep my mouth shut. I have been volunteering for 5 years to an organization that started JUST because our city would not support one of its own Historic Landmarks. Instead of helping us, they are penalizing us even more. Why don't you fix the history that you have, instead of giving more money to muddy our future?? HELL NO. NO MORE. There may be no more G5 after this year, thank our city for that.
Looks like CAPS isn't the only thing keeping artists down these days.
It sounded -- during yesterday's discussion -- like the city was serious about exploring changes to the admissions tax, but that there was a fair amount of research and studying planned before it went to City Council or the Mayor's Office.
Given the mood in the culture community, it might be a good idea to fast-track this one.