Hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to Oxford every year during football season and for other events happenings in the area. While visitors are in town, they have 31 restaurants on the Square, the city’s bustling center. What most visitors and many residents might not realize is that every time they eat or drink out in Oxford two percent of their bill goes toward the city budget to help fund different tourist attractions.
The Square in Oxford attracts people from around the country due in large part to the plethora of restaurants. These restaurants help bring in money for the city and its tourism office while funding various events that are held in Oxford throughout the year.
“That (two percent tax) is one of the main things that funds our tourism office so we try to be good partners with all of the local restaurants,” said Kinney Ferris, Operations and Outreach Manager at the Oxford Tourism office.
The two percent tax. which has been in effect since June 1983 and includes a two percent tax on lodging, helps the city in many other ways as well.
According to the 2011-2012 city budget, the money received from the food and beverage tax is split and divided into 24 different categories. For example, $30,000 of the $3,001,028.26 from 2011-2012 was given to the Oxford Arts Council.
The food and beverage tax has helped increase the budget over the years. In April 2012 $191,727 was brought in from the tax. This past April, the income was $207,911, an eight percent increase. This past April also marked the first time the revenue from the tax had risen to over $200,000.
In a town with 20,088 people, advertisement and originality contribute to the tax income being so high.
Dillon Courson, manager of Proud Larry’s, said that because the restaurant plays host to several concerts, people come in and stay for the food and drinks. He said the music and publicity they receive from that is definitely what keeps people coming back.
Amber Reeves, manager of Bouré, one of four restaurants in the City Grocery Restaurant Group owned by Chef John Currence, said that many people come in because they read articles about Currence. Other business comes from word-of-mouth.
The money coming in from these different restaurants is used in many ways the public might not even realize. Some expenses, for example, that come out of the food and beverage fund are shuttles around town, Christmas lights for decoration around the Square, Ole Miss football game day toilets and handrails on the Square. Of the 2011-2012 budget, $30,000 was used for these expenses, also what the city calls “miscellaneous” items.
According to Ferris, many of those miscellaneous items are included because they have to accommodate the people who live in Oxford year round and not just give the money to things that benefit tourists.
The budget also allows for $35,000 to be allocated toward the annual Double Decker Arts Festival. This festival, which features local food vendors and artists, is an event that brings people to the Square and encourages them to dine in one of the many offered restaurants.
“Double Decker is a good example of something out-of-the-box that we get to do,” Ferris said. “We only accept local vendors, so a lot of those restaurants will hire extra people that weekend for their booths outside and their restaurants are still filled to capacity.”