Updated: 03/27/2014 10:17 PM
Created: 03/27/2014 8:57 PM WDIO.com
By: Maarja Anderson
Duluth Mayor Don Ness is gaining support for a proposal that would reinstate a half-percent tourism tax in the city.
The mayor was in St. Paul Wednesday lobbying a senate tax committee to allow the city to reinstate the tourism tax. Thursday, West Duluth community leaders and residents gathered at Mr. D's to show their support for the proposal.
The tax would be applied to food and beverages purchased at bars and restaurants, as well as on stays at hotels and motels. The money would then be invested in revitalization projects in West Duluth, according to Ness.
The tax dollars would go to support tourism growth and promotion in West Duluth, to places such as the Lake Superior Zoo, Spirit Mountain, Wade Stadium. It would also help create new trails, parks, and better access to the river.
Ness calls it the 'St. Louis River Vision.'
The mayor also stressed a sense of urgency, saying, "We can't wait." He pointed out West Duluth's main thoroughfare is already scheduled for construction.
"We want to make the improvement that we are talking about today at the same time the improvements are made on Highway 23, so at the end of the construction season at 2016 we're going to present to this entire region a new experience along the St. Louis River," said Ness.
Business leaders agree.
"We don't want it [Highway 23] to be a new road for people to go through West Duluth, we want it to be a new road for people to be able to come to West Duluth and stop in West Duluth," said Charlie Stauduhar, President of the West Duluth Business Club.
Ness also announced the support of Visit Duluth for the tax.
But what do hotels and restaurants think about the tax? It's still unclear.
Eyewitness News called around to a dozen hotels and restaurants, few are taking a side quite yet. Grandma's Restaurants, however, said they would support the tax.
The Duluth Chamber of Commerce is meeting with all their members before they take a public stance.
Ness said this is just the beginning of the process. The state legislature has to allow the city the authority to leverage the tax that expired about a year and a half ago. Then they'll engage the community before the proposal is up before the city council.
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