HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) -
Beginning Sunday, it will be more expensive to dine out in Henrico County. On June 1, a 4-percent tax on food and beverages at restaurants takes effect.
The meals tax, which voters approved in November 2013, is expected to bring in $18 million, which will go toward the county's public schools.
Restaurant owners have been preparing for the change, most hoping the tax hike won't stop loyal customers from dining out.
Last fall, Al Coleman, the owner of Big Al's Sports Bar & Grill, stood up against the meals tax.
"If people are paying 4 percent more, they may be less likely to go out to eat or have a drink," he said.
But now, Coleman is preparing his team for the increase that begins June 1.
"What I've done is I've had a meeting with my employees to talk about how we're going to handle it," he said.
The tax applies to meals, but some items, like snacks, desserts or drinks ordered alone, don't get the 4-percent tax.
"And that's causing a few problems for the computer systems to be able to pick up and separate food and beverage," Coleman said.
Those ordering items like the ones listed above with a meal can expect to see a higher bill. For example, a $20 check for dinner and drinks gets a 5.3-percent tax, plus the county’s new 4-percent tax. In total, the meal will get a 9.3-percent meals tax, raising the total bill to $21.86.
“And if you tip out 20 percent, you’re paying your meal, plus almost 30 percent on top of that,” Coleman said. “So, I told my servers and bartenders, you know, ‘Your tips may fall off a little bit.’”
Although it’s been a stressful transition for some, most restaurant owners aren’t worried about the new tax.
“If you give good service and you have good food and you take care of your customers, they’ll take care of you and they’ll come back,” Coleman said.
The Henrico County meals tax also exempts certain items in the grocery store, like anything weighed by the pound or items available at a hot bar. Click here to see a complete list of guidelines about the food and beverage tax.