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Newport Beach : Proposal Would Ask Diners to Fund Ads

A city committee is looking at ways to persuade restaurant diners to pick up the check for a campaign promoting local eateries, which generate about 8.3% of the city’s general fund revenue each year.

But even if the plan is implemented, the quarter-percent tax hike on each tab probably would not be enough to force reconsideration of whether to order dessert. The proposal would tack the fee onto the bill’s sales tax, which is 7 3/4%, making it an even 8%, Assistant City Manager Ken Delino said. The plan is part of the city’s broader push for economic development, Delino said.

“Restaurants are our biggest industry. There are 400 of them,” he said. “It’s a $250-million industry. That returns to the city $2.5 million in sales tax. It’s bigger than the next three categories--car dealers, department stores and apparel stores--combined.”

The money collected would fund joint marketing efforts to encourage diners to patronize Newport Beach restaurants. “It used to be that Newport Beach was the place in the county to get a good meal. Now, darn it, some of these other cities are getting good restaurants,” Delino said.

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The thrust of the marketing plan would be to keep local diners in town and remind visitors and neighbors that Newport Beach is still home to some of the county’s finest dining. The fee would fund a “Tourist Improvement District,” a variation on an assessment district in which the improvement is not a tangible item, Delino said.

His staff is looking over the legal aspects of the plan, which should be ready to present to the City Council within a couple of months, he said.

The city’s Economic Development Committee notified area restaurateurs of the proposal and surveyed those who attended a meeting to discuss it, Delino said.

“All the restaurateurs seem to indicate that this would not bother anybody,” he said. “On any given day, we’ll have 100,000 to 125,000 extra peoplein town and they all have to eat.”

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