Basalt sales tax revenues up 4.4 percent from 2007 |

Basalt sales tax revenues up 4.4 percent from 2007

Scott Condon/The Aspen Times

— Basalt’s economy held its own this year even as news on the national front kept getting worse in the fall.

The town’s sales tax collections are up 4.4 percent for the year through November compared with 2007, according to a report by town finance director Judi Tippetts. The town has collected $3.39 million through its 3 percent sales tax, compared with $3.25 million at the same point last year.

Summer is the season that Basalt butters its bread because anglers head to the rivers, boaters go to Ruedi Reservoir and second-home owners visit the Roaring Fork Club to golf and fish. Tax collections were down in July, strong in August and flat in September. Collections lag one month behind actual sales, Tippetts said, so July collections reflect June sales.

The town continued to show modest growth in sales into September and October.

“We haven’t seen a downturn at all,” said Mike Mercatoris, co-owner of Zheng Asian Bistro in Orchard Plaza. Business remains consistent with prior years even though there is greater competition from more restaurants in the midvalley, he said.

The seven-year-old restaurant always has marketed itself as a less expensive alternative, Mercatoris said. And that approach is particularly important these days, with consumers being more careful with discretionary income. Therefore, Mercatoris said, he is holding steady on prices.

“Stay focused on what you do,” he said.

Zheng also started serving lunch in October, providing its customer base with a less expensive option, and catering, as well. The restaurant depends heavily on local residents. When the upvalley economy is going well, downvalley workers have more money and dine out more often, Mercatoris said. When the economy isn’t doing so well, diners seek the less expensive options. Either way, Mercatoris thinks he is positioned well.

Basalt’s restaurants with bars showed healthy sales growth during 2008. Sales tax collections from that category were up 11 percent to $298,711 from $267,800 last year through November, the town report showed. Some of that growth reflects Crave Kitchen and Smoke getting established in their first full years at Willits Town Center and El Korita’s relocation to its larger space. They opened in 2007 at Willits, but this is their first full year of operation there.

Basalt’s economic driver is City Market. The retail food category, which includes City Market and Clark’s Market, accounts for more than one-third of sales tax dollars collected by Basalt.

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