GEORGETOWN — Restaurant owners and managers struggled Tuesday to suggest ways the tourism commission could use money generated from a 3 percent restaurant tax being considered by the city council.
Few of them agreed with a tax that would place an additional burden on customers.
But the tourism commission, which would receive the money generated from the tax, wanted ideas that would help promote local businesses.
"I'm fighting not to lay off people that have been with me a long time," said Rhonda Grinstead-Kinder of Mancino's Pizza and Grinders. "Right now, we don't care about signs on the interstate."
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Tommy Chew, owner of Charcoal's Grill, said he'd rather spend the money himself to promote his business.
Peggy Myers of Granny's Goodies said the tax would hurt local people and waitresses whose customers might start tipping less.
Several of the restaurant owners and managers wondered what attractions would draw people to Georgetown to eat at their establishments.
Tourism officials mentioned the 2010 World Equestrian Games, Georgetown College, the Cardome, Toyota and events such as the annual Festival of the Horse.
Tourism commission chairwoman Jeanne Biddle said millions of dollars in additional revenue could pour into Georgetown if more travelers stop in town to eat.
"We have to have a vision for our community," Biddle said.
Stacy Roof, president of the Kentucky Restaurant Association, said she thought the tension in the room was the result of talking about a tax that hasn't been approved as though it had already been implemented.
The Georgetown City Council had a reading of the ordinance in February but has not scheduled a time to vote on it.
"You don't want your residents to have to foot the bill," Roof said to restaurant owners during the meeting.
She said other cities with restaurant taxes have used the money for things only loosely related to tourism.
At the end of the meeting, the restaurant owners had developed a list of about two dozen ideas on how the tourism commission could use its money regardless of whether the tax is implemented. The list included additional parking downtown, more downtown events, improvement to facilities, and better Web presence and maps.
"If it doesn't pass, we still want to help you," tourism commissioner Darlene Free said.