August sales tax receipts up |

August sales tax receipts up

Downtown rides construction wave to modest gains

When a major construction project broke ground virtually next door to the Tap House about two years ago, owner Gary Saxe and partner Melissa Baker didn’t need long to determine that a $6 lunch special might pay off.

You can see the results in the August sales tax figures recently reported by the city of Steamboat Springs.

Tax receipts from restaurants citywide were up 2.6 percent during the last big month of summer tourism, but restaurants in the downtown commercial district were up 11.8 percent.

“Our lunch business especially has been up,” Saxe said. “But it hasn’t been just in August. It’s been for 18 months to two years since several big projects” got under way.

Overall sales tax receipts in the city during August were up 2.94 percent over August 2007, from $1.56 million to $1.61 million. Year-to-date sales tax collections are up 3.86 percent.

Construction workers from four major projects and several smaller ones have buoyed receipts in Steamboat’s historic commercial district.

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Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, said the impact of downtown construction and the out-of-town workers employed by the general contractors has been kind to restaurants and the handful of motels remaining on Lincoln Avenue.

“Lodging numbers were way up,” Barnett said. “They come in on Sunday and leave on Thursday.”

However, she said, the building bonus hasn’t really spilled over to the single largest category of sales tax generation tracked by the city. Miscellaneous retail receipts were up just 0.2 percent in the downtown and 1.78 percent in the broader city, where the U.S. Highway 40 corridor is king.

After a slow start in 2008, sporting goods were a bright spot in August. After seeing receipts takes six consecutive dips in the first half of the year, sporting goods store owners notched a modest increase in July and an 12.85 percent jump in August. Sporting goods were up 12.5 percent in the downtown.

Rod Schrage, whose Ski Haus is right in the heart of the U.S. 40 district, said it has been hard to discern rhyme or reason to the swings in the sporting goods industry this year.

“There is no trend,” Schrage said. “We had a stellar July and August, but May and June were not so good. It seemed like the summer tourism season was compressed into two months. After that, it was anybody’s guess. September was down, then we had a good sale in October.”

Schrage and his staff have long since ordered all of the skiing and snow sports hard and soft goods you’d expect of a ski shop in a major resort. There is no time to adjust inventory in light of the deepening economic crisis.

“We’ve got it all for the winter,” Schrage said. “We’re committed. We’ll do what we do.”

Down on Lincoln Avenue, Saxe is hopeful that as large construction projects like The Victoria, Howelsen Place, Alpen Glow and The Olympian wrap up, another clientele will replace construction workers.

“My optimistic feeling is that when they sell the (downtown) condos and the stores fill up, we’ll see different customers coming in,” Saxe said.

Schrage sees clear signs that the national economic crisis is being reflected locally.

“The economy is so shaky, it affects us here,” he said.

August sales tax revenue by category

Category 2007 2008 % change

General retail $860,510 $875,835 1.78%

Lodging $209,735 $209,301 -0.21%

Sporting goods $75,663 $84,631 11.85%

Utilities $112,463 $125,362 11.47%

Restaurants $253,123 $259,701 2.6%

Liquor stores $56,064 $58,791 4.86%

Source: City of Steamboat Springs

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