Liquor store owners in Athens want tax cut from city, say current liquor tax is too high

WAAY 31 spoke with the city and owners of one liquor store to find out how reducing the liquor tax could affect both sides.

Posted: Jun 26, 2019 8:54 PM
Updated: Jun 26, 2019 11:09 PM

Owners of privately-owned liquor stores in Athens are begging the city for a tax cut, saying the current liquor tax is affecting their businesses.

WAAY 31 spoke with the city and owners of one liquor store to find out how reducing the liquor tax could affect both sides.

The owners of Good Spirit Beverages say the liquor tax they have to pay is too high, and their customers agree.

"The state stores sell us a case of merchandise. If we buy it by the case, they give us a 14 percent discount. But, in return, we lose the discount, because once we sell that case, we have to give 15 percent back to the City of Athens,” said store owner, Steve Pearson.

Because of the 15 percent liquor tax in the City of Athens, Pearson says he can’t compete with state-operated stores, and he’s losing money. It’s affected his livelihood so much, Pearson has considered opening shop in another town, something customers hate to hear.

“We are trying to foster more businesses into Limestone County so that we do have a greater commerce area here, and we need little businessmen like this,” said a customer, Helen Thompson.

After hearing complaints from three liquor store owners, the City of Athens says it is researching the impacts of lowering the liquor tax.

According to city officials, Decatur and Hartselle both have a 15 percent liquor tax while Huntsville has a 12 percent tax. Guntersville and Scottsboro sit at 10 percent.

The city says lowering the liquor tax could reduce the city’s revenue by about $70,000, but Pearson thinks differently.

“We’ll begin to see some money. We’ll begin to increase our business,” said Pearson.

After the city determines the type of economic impact a lower liquor tax could mean, it will present its findings to the Athens City Council, which may or may not consider making a change.

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