The concept has become popular among local merchants: Tax yourself, get results.
So the city's restaurateurs, following the lead of Newport Beach's main financial district as well as Corona del Mar, Balboa Island and Balboa Peninsula, have banded together to form the Newport Beach Restaurant Improvement District.
"What we are hoping to accomplish is to provide more money for advertising, publicity and marketing of all Newport Beach restaurants, whether they be large or small," said Dan Marcheano, owner of The Arches restaurant and president of the Newport Beach Restaurant Assn.
Unlike typical business improvement districts, where a commercial zone is carved out and only establishments within set boundaries are taxed, the restaurant improvement district would assess a levy on all 400 eateries in the city.
The amount charged would be roughly equal to the establishment's business license fees, which average $100, meaning that the tax would generate about $45,000 a year.
For establishments with 10 or fewer employees, the assessment would be a flat $25 a year.
Critics say that food outlets within existing business districts would be taxed twice. John H. Douglas, the city's coordinator for improvement districts, said he has received about 10 telephone calls to protest the restaurant assessment.
Under law, if protests are made by businesses that would pay 50% or more of the total assessment, proceedings to establish the district must be postponed for one year.
Marcheano expressed optimism about the proposal, however, and quoted what he said is an Italian proverb to support the idea: "If you stand in the corner and crack a walnut, nobody is going to hear you. But if you stand in that same corner with 400 people cracking walnuts, somebody is going to hear you."
The restaurant operators will seek the City Council's blessing at Thursday's meeting, and hearings are set for Nov. 13.