Charleston restaurant owners urge SC lawmakers to suspend taxes over worries about coronavirus losses

Relax the Tax

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Workshop owner Michael Shemtov and operations manager Buist Rivers - RUTA SMITH
  • Ruta Smith
  • Workshop owner Michael Shemtov and operations manager Buist Rivers
Updated guidelines from the national Centers for Disease Control are forcing Charleston restaurant operators to decide whether they should remain open for business. Many still offer take out and delivery services, but many employees earning hourly pay have been left without jobs as a result of widespread slowdowns. Michael Shemtov, whose restaurant portfolio includes Workshop, Butcher & Bee, and The Daily, issued a plea on social media this morning, urging Charleston locals to help the cause by asking their state legislators to suspend tax collection for hospitality-related businesses. 
Some February taxes, which Shemtov says add up to a good chunk of the month's revenue, are due to be paid on Friday. "A suspension of the tax is a very important first step, but it won't save every business," he says. "This week's sales go toward last week's payroll, so this could help us buy some time and navigate the next few weeks."

The movement to advocate for this governmental assistance started with Harry Root, owner of Grassroots Wine, who felt he could lend a helping hand after his prominent role in the wine industry's push to eliminate wine tariffs proposed back in January. With Root's guidance and the help of other industry leaders, Shemtov crafted a letter to S.C. Rep. Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) asking the legislature and Gov. Henry McMaster to "immediately suspend all tax collection for all hospitality related businesses." Shemtov also says that a group of 20 local industry members wrote another letter to the government asking for a city-wide closure of restaurants with the exception of take out and delivery orders.
5th Street Group CEO Patrick Whalen - PROVIDED
  • Provided
  • 5th Street Group CEO Patrick Whalen
Patrick Whalen, CEO of the 5th Street Group, was ahead of the curve on that front, suspending service on Sunday afternoon at 5Church Charleston along with the company's 5Church flagship in Charlotte and nearby Sophia's Lounge. "We just want to be part of the solution, especially because it doesn't seem like this thing is going away anytime soon," says Whalen.

The ownership group will continue to pay all their employees, but Whalen recognizes that this just isn't a reality for all small businesses. "We are fortunate to be in that position, but no one can do that forever," explains Whalen. "I do hope that some step is taken to help our industry."



Want to help the cause? Follow this link and get in touch with your South Carolina legislator to advocate for a suspension of Friday's hospitality tax collection. 

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