Seattle restaurants gradually returning to pre-pandemic volume amid mixed city revenue forecast
As Seattle emerges from an omicron-fueled spike in COVID-19 cases, the city’s Office of Economic and Revenue Forecasts reports that the number of patrons to the city’s restaurants is slowly on the rise, per data provided by OpenTable.
When compared with 2019, pre-pandemic corresponding dates, the number of seated Seattle diners approached 60% in March, following a plunge of near 30% in January amid concerns about the omicron variant.
The numbers are far below the national average for those two months, at approximately 90% and 80% respectively. However, Seattle had more aggressively pursued COVID public health policy restrictions than other major metro areas.
The lack of patrons has affected the city’s revenue with less money from sales, B&O, and soda tax revenues. However, the city’s revenue is “faring somewhat better than expected” within the context of mitigating economic variables such as rising inflation and a Russia-Ukraine war, as Councilmember Lisa Herbold wrote in a recent blog post.
Ultimately, the city’s revenue forecast shows an increase in projected revenue: an approximate $32.5 million in the general fund for April and an increase of $57.3 million of non-general fund resources. Herbold attributes the relative health of the city’s coffers to JumpStart, the city’s big-business tax passed in 2020. The tax is expected to raise $227 million this year.
Chamber of Commerce renews push to overturn Seattle big business tax
While JumpStart survived a Seattle Chamber of Commerce challenge in June, the chamber is now appealing the tax in the Washington State Court of Appeal, with oral arguments heard in court last Friday.
The chamber is leveraging case law from the early 1950s from Seattle’s other sister city to the north: Bellingham.
In Cary v. Bellingham, the court struck down an ordinance that required employees to procure a license to work in the city, paying an effective tax on their wages.
The chamber of commerce is attempting to make the argument that JumpStart represents a similar tax on employee wages, an argument that was rejected by King County Superior Court in June.