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Following Public Forums on Proposed Ticket Tax, GCAC Considers New Recommendations for Council

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Following Public Forums on Proposed Ticket Tax, GCAC Considers New Recommendations for CouncilPhoto by Matt Ellis.
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Following the three public forums on the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s (GCAC) proposed citywide ticket fee, the organization has considered new recommendations for City Council.

Of primary concern to many independent artists and small businesses is how they’d be impacted by a 7 percent ticket tax. Others were unsure of the definition of “event,” as the proposal’s language suggests a fee on virtually any ticketed event taking place within Columbus city limits, with the exception of high school and college sports, and events benefitting police or fire departments and charitable or religious organizations.

And not the least of concern is the involvement of Nationwide Arena, a begrudgingly publicly financed facility that’s in dire need of repairs.

GCAC will take a revised proposal to City Council upon their return from summer recess the week of September 17, and it’ll include several adjustments.

Small Business & Independent Artists

“This is a little bit about the political process, I’m sure you understand,” says Jami Goldstein, GCAC VP of Marketing, Communications and Events. “You start with sort of the guts of everything that’s possible, and now what are your concerns, and where can we make very reasonable recommendations that take small business, DIY and artist-led projects [into account]?”

Goldstein and GCAC CEO and President Tom Katzenmeyer say the term “small business” has yet to be defined, but it will likely take into account trackable figures such as occupancy rate and ticket pricing; not budgets, which Goldstein says can “fluctuate all over the place.”

They’re also considering the effects the fee may have on businesses that charge a small cover at the door, such as their ability to make change or fairly compensate artists and bands.

“We recognize how important those artists and those efforts are to our creative vitality, so that’s another thing we’re considering here,” says Goldstein. “We know we’re on the upswing in attracting more bands and bringing more musicians to live here, and we don’t want to do anything that’s going to impair that upward trajectory.”

Exempted Events

In addition to the kinds of event admissions already exempted in the original proposal, GCAC will recommend to council the exclusion of: classes and workshops, race registrations such as 5Ks and walks, Pelotonia, complimentary tickets, pay-as-you-can tickets, and fair rides. The fee would also be left off of memberships for service organizations, shopping clubs and parking vouchers.

Goldstein and Katzenmeyer clarified several other points.

Regardless of where an organization’s headquarters are stationed, if they host a non-exempt ticketed event in the City of Columbus, they’ll be subject to the ticket tax.

GCAC opted for the city council route, rather than taking the tax proposal to the ballot, following other state municipalities who’ve imposed a similar fee through council action. Two sitting City Council members are currently serving on the GCAC board, and, according to the Ohio Revised Code, they’re allowed to vote on the tax. Council member Elizabeth Brown, Katzenmeyer’s daughter-in-law, is not permitted to vote on it.

As the proposal language stands, the fee does not have an end date, neither for the fee itself nor the portion of the funding that would go to Nationwide Arena.

As far as Nationwide Arena is concerned, GCAC argues that the facility is putting in more than it’s getting out of the ticket tax. Together with the Ohio Stadium and the Schottenstein Center, it’s expected to pull together 49 percent of all revenue generated, but it’s unclear how those funds shake out by the individual venue.

“We understand that there is some hesitation over the arena piece of it,” Goldstein says. “I would say the people of Columbus and Franklin County already own the arena. If it fails, we’ll pay anyway. I think we know the history is bad but we can’t fix that — how do we go forward?”

For more information, visit gcac.org.

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