Mayor asks legislators for more South Knoxville business help

Mayor asks legislators for more South Knoxville business help


6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE  (WATE) — Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett has already asked the state legislature to help South Knoxville businesses hurt by the Henley Bridge closure.

Now he's asking again, and for more than lawmakers first seemed willing to give.  

Burchett says the time for urgency is right now. He hopes that asking state lawmakers to consider additional tax breaks will better target many of the small businesses and entrepreneurs hurt by the bridge closures.  

The mayor sent a second letter to the county legislative delegation. He said property tax relief that's been talked about is not the best means of providing aid.  

Mayor Burchett writes that a more effective and efficient way would be through breaks on sales tax or the franchise and excise tax.  

Ye Olde Steakhouse is a known iconic South Knoxville restaurant. Despite its notoriety, the family-run business has been hurting.  

"We have cut payroll here. We have asked our salary people to week off without a pay," said Cheryl Wilson, one of the restaurants co-owners. 

Since the Henley Bridge closure, the restaurants owners have taken out around $40,000 in loans.  

"It was right after the bridge closing that we borrowed the first $15,000, then we went up to $20,000 then we did another personal $15,000 loan," Wilson said.  

Burchett's request asks for breaks on the sales tax and the franchise and excise tax, a privilege tax imposed on any business and corporation.  

He said those taxes are paid by the business owners and their families, unlike property taxes in many cases.  

"That would help the business owners specifically, not the land owners. A lot of land owners have owned the land for a generation almost," Burchett said.  

Andy Cantillo, the owner of Bayou Bay Restaurant, says the plan could be beneficial. He estimates he'll need a 50% break in sales tax each month to recoup lost revenue.

"Sales tax would be an immediate relief for us every month because we pay sales tax every month. So that would be awesome help there. Franchise and excise tax, we pay that yearly. That would help down the road, but we need help now," Said Cantillo.  

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero says she is looking at tax breaks, but also wants to explore state and local grants.  

Rogero said it's been challenging trying to find any means of help for businesses.

"It's a matter of working to see what exactly they need. There are only certain things we can do, certain programs that are available," Rogero said.

On Thursday afternoon, Mayors Burchett and Rogero met with the state's economic and community development commissioner Bill Hagerty concerning this issue.  

State Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) says she hasn't seen Burchett's latest request, but did say members of the Knox County legislative delegation were already in the preliminary stages of drafting bills providing tax relief for those businesses.  

Local leaders along with the Knox County legislative delegation set up a meeting with various South Knoxville merchants on March 4th.

Knox County Commissioner Mike Brown says he'll introduce a resolution showing support for the letter Mayor Burchett sent to lawmakers.

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