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Restaurants at The Banks now collecting 'amenity fee'

1 percent surcharge to fund events, marketing
Posted at 11:12 AM, Apr 03, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-03 15:19:13-04

CINCINNATI — It started on April Fool’s Day, but it’s no prank. Restaurants at The Banks are now collecting a 1 percent surcharge on all food and beverage orders.

The Banks Community Authority will use the money for marketing, events and “place-making improvements,” as outlined in a petition that led to the creation of the new collection authority last summer. Backers of the idea told WCPO last July that they expected to raise more than $500,000 a year from the new amenity fee.

“I was skeptical going into this, but the engagement of this whole thing has been pretty cool to see,” said Jim Moehring, co-owner of Holy Grail Banks. “It’s united the vendors in the neighborhood and it’s given us a presence and a voice that we’ve been lacking.”

The creation of the community authority was approved by Cincinnati City Council last September. The city appointed five of its nine board members. That board has selected Clark Shaeffer Hackett to administer the collection process.

The board also hired the public-relations firm Game Day Communications to craft a spending strategy for the funds, said Tracy Schwegmann, marketing director for Jeffrey R. Anderson Real Estate, which handles retail leasing at The Banks.

Schwegmann said Game Day is interviewing restaurant owners and conducting consumer research to determine what approaches will draw the most customers to the Cincinnati riverfront.

“We’ll probably see a mix of marketing, PR, social media, some event production,” Schwegmann said. “But what that actual mix looks like will be driven by those research inputs. And that’s still to come.”

Moehring praised Game Day’s handling of last month’s St. Patrick Parade, which gave his bar and others a big sales day. He said Nicol Investment Group, which owns apartment properties at The Banks, covered the cost of the event as an example of how future events will work.

Moehring also praised the Banks Community Authority for being flexible on how the new amenity fee is paid. He said some restaurants are showing the surcharge as a 1 percent fee on customer receipts. Others are covering the cost of the fee with price increases or simply writing checks.

”It’s inclusive in our pricing,” Moehring said. “If we do everything right that one percent should turn into five percent on our bottom line.”

The Banks Community Authority is governed by a nine-person board that includes four from the private sector. Here are the board members:

  • Wade Walcutt – Director of the Cincinnati Park Board
  • Markiea Carter – Director of Cincinnati’s Department of Economic Inclusion
  • Sheila Hill-Christian – Assistant City Manager, Cincinnati
  • Phil Denning – Director of Cincinnati’s Community and Economic Development department.
  • Luke Blocher – Deputy City Solicitor, Cincinnati
  • Greg Hardman – Founder, Moerlein Lager House
  • Laura Griffin - Associate, Nicol Investment Group
  • Grant Nicol – Director of finance, Nicol Investment Group.
  • Dave Rubsam – Director of asset management, Eagle Realty Group