Mayor John Callahan’s proposed 5 percent tax on ticketed events and shows is “ultimately too much for our business to handle,” a spokesman for the Sands Bethlehem Event Center said in a prepared news release issued Saturday.
“One incentive behind bringing our business to the city of Bethlehem was the lack of a city wide amusement tax,” said Jerry Deifer of the Vision Entertainment Group, which operates the center partners with the Sands in its ownership.
Callahan announced the new tax proposal during his budget address on Friday. The 5 percent “first responders fee” is estimated to bring in $600,000 in new revenue, which the city would devote exclusively to the police and fire departments.
The Sands would be among the most heavily affected by the new tax along with SteelStacks and Musikfest. The tax would also likely be applied to events at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center and Stabler Arena.
“The price of tickets would end up reflecting this tax increase. The general public would wind paying higher prices for tickets,” Deifer said.
“After 6 months of record setting numbers in entertainment for the Lehigh Valley and in excess of $10 million invested in the city, a plan to levy an amusement tax is a major change in the business model which was used to guide our investment decision.”
Deifer told The Express-Times that Vision is not considering walking away from its new 3,500-seat venue, but it might think twice before investing in an expansion.
“Although the proposal calls the amusement tax, a first responders fee, it should be known Vision Entertainment Group LLC, who operates the Sands Bethlehem Event Center, already pays city first responders at all major events we hold,” Deifer’s prepared statement said.
”We do not see this as a fair solution and will continue to probe this matter in more detail.”