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City considers admissions tax

With a new independent theater on the way and a major chain purchasing South Sound Cinema 10 last March, the Port Orchard City Council has turned its attention to admissions taxes.

On Nov. 26, the Council will consider an ordinance raising admission taxes from one-tenth of 1 percent to 5 percent, meaning an additional 40 cents on an $8 movie ticket.

The city implemented the one-tenth percent tax in 1989 following an agreement with South Sound Cinema 10. But in March, the theater was purchased by Regal Cinemas, a company accustomed to the 5 percent tax imposed in other cities, such as Seattle.

The tax can be imposed on entertainment admissions, and is not limited to cinemas, but locals invested in movie-ticket sales in Port Orchard gave the proposal two thumbs down.

Councilman Bob Geiger strongly opposed the tax at the Council’s Monday meeting, arguing it was imposing fees against a set group. Geiger owns the building at 822 Bay Street which was once the Plaza Twin Cinemas and will soon house The Orchard.

“You’re taxing the public and you don’t have the courage to tax all of the public by adding a 1 percent tax to their water bill or a 1 percent tax to this or that that would affect everybody,” Geiger said. “You’re going to tax those who would go to a show as though that’s some kind of a clandestine activity comparable to gambling or other things that might be taxed in a limited manner.”

Geiger was most concerned the tax would hurt his tenant, The Orchard, run by Bainbridge Entertainment Enterprises, which operates the Lynwood Theatre.

“They have expressed that even though they signed a lease, that if they don’t make it in the first year they walk out of it and you’ll have an empty building again,” he said.

But Geiger’s protests remained unsupported by the rest of the Council, withholding a needed second to his motion to not consider the proposed tax.

Others on the Council indicated the issue has long needed addressing, and that the current one-tenth percent tax is useless.

“Right now it’s negligible,” Councilwoman Carolyn Powers said. “I don’t know why we even bother.”

Powers said she was not merely pushing the imposition of a tax, but wanted the Council to “put it to bed one way or the other.”

The council voted to have a draft ordinance prepared for the next meeting, on Nov. 26.

Bainbridge Entertainment Enterprises co-owner Jeff Brein called the tax discriminatory, but said The Orchard will abide by whatever regulations the city imposes.

“I think it’s unfair to tax someone who wants to go to a movie,” he said. “I’m not going pull the fire alarm here and tell people it’s the end of the movie business as we know it in Port Ochard, (but) I think the Council needs to be cognizant about the fact that we’re going to pass this on to their constituents.”

Brein said the local tax coincides with a statewide change in concession taxes. Food items that required no preparation, such as boxes of candy, were tax-exempt, but that’s also changing in January.

“That is creating a situation where industry-wide, circuit-wide we have to look at our concession prices and build those tax increases into certain items,” Brein said.

Regardless, Brein does not believe the taxes will stop moviegoers or impede the new business.

“If they pass the tax, we will charge the tax, we will give them the tax and life will go on,” he said. “We don’t feel its fair but we'll go ahead and abide to it.”

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