Bloomfield considers new tax on barroom games

Bloomfield considers new tax on barroom games

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BLOOMFIELD — Tavern owners and others with bar games are unhappy that village officials are considering taxing games as a way of generating new revenue for local government.

Under a plan being discussed among village leaders, Bloomfield business owners would pay $20 a year for each pool table, jukebox, pinball machine, dart board or other money-operated entertainment device in their establishment.

Officials have calculated that the new tax would apply to 10 businesses within the village limits.

Modeling their plan after similar taxes in Lake Geneva and Kenosha, Bloomfield officials say they are trying to regulate bar games to ensure that no businesses display games that are prohibited by state law.

If the village board approves, each business would be required to obtain a permit for “amusement devices” and to pay a yearly application fee or $20 for each device. An establishment’s permits would have to be displayed, just like a liquor license.

The proposal is among several that have come under consideration as Bloomfield confronts financial troubles attributed to rising government costs and mounting debts.

Becky Gallagher, chairwoman of a village committee studying the budget crunch, said one reason for the $20-a-year tax is to protect consumers from illegal games in local taverns, restaurants and elsewhere.

“That is the intent with having the permits displayed,” Gallagher said, “so that we know that there are no devices taking advantage of the public.”

Business owners, however, are objecting to a proposal that they interpret as a needless new tax on business — and a grab for more money by local government.

Ron Mikrut Sr., owner of Upper Crust Pizzeria and Pub, said he will pay the amusement device tax if required on his establishment’s two pinball machines and one video arcade.

Mikrut, however, said business is tough already, and any new government fees are not going to help.

“There’s a limit to what you can pay,” he said. “Nobody wants to be taxed.”

Referring the village officials, Mikrut said: “They can’t pay their bills, and all they do is pass it on.”

Christine Domel, owner of Chris’s Steel Horse Saloon, agreed that the idea sounds like an unwelcome tax increase.

“I think that they are shooting to make money,” Domel said. “And they can do it in other ways.”

Darcy Bush, owner of Pub and Grub, said she believes an amusement device tax has caused troubles for business in Twin Lakes.

“Twin Lakes found out that it was not worth it,” Bush said.

Village President Dan Aronson and other village board members could not be reached for comment about the new tax idea, which is scheduled for consideration at a Dec. 9 board meeting.

The idea came from the Ad-Hoc Income Growth Committee studying Bloomfield’s budget woes.

Kenosha charges $60 for each amusement device, while Lake Geneva charges $20 for dart games, pinball machines and jukeboxes, and $40 per table for pool tables. In arcades, the city collects $25 per device or a flat fee of $300 if a business has 10 or more arcade games.

Lake Geneva City Clerk Lana Kropf said the system works well in keeping track of businesses to ensure that no illegal games are displayed.

“Part of the reason that we ask for a permit is for exposure for what people are having in their businesses,” Kropf said.

Bloomfield has been coping with financial difficulties since incorporating in 2011 and finding that the tax base is not adequate to support basic government services for the new municipality. Voters last year rejected a referendum authorizing a property tax increase beyond the tax cap limits set by state law.

As a result, the village has run up millions of dollars in debt to sustain the new village.

Kenosha and Lake Geneva were two of the municipalities researched by Bloomfield’s ad-hoc committee in searching for ways to generate new revenue for the struggling village.

“Knowing what other people do helps you find a middle ground to tailor it to the needs of your local community,” Gallagher said.

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