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Business Owner Wants McPier Tax Reduced, Spread To Whole City

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A group of Lincoln Park business owners is calling on state lawmakers to take a second look at a controversial 30-year old city tax levied on thousands of restaurants in and near downtown.

It's called the Metropolitan Pier & Exposition Authority Tax, or McPier Tax, and business owner John Corry said it's doing him no favors.

"I pay on average $1,100 a month for the MPE tax. It's one percent, in addition to the 10.25 percent sales tax and quarter percent restaurant tax," said Corry, owner of Four Farthings restaurant and bar in Lincoln Park.

The MPE tax dates back to 1983, and was designed to support Navy Pier and McCormick Place. The 1 percent extra sales tax is tacked on to restaurant tabs in an area bound by Diversey Parkway on the north, Ashland Avenue on the west, the Stevenson Expressway on the south, and Lake Michigan on the east.

"It is extremely unfair, not only to my business, but thousands of others to take hundreds – or, in a lot of cases thousands – off the top monthly, with no benefit to those businesses," Corry said. "We are not opposed to getting taxed if we receive collateral business from one or both of these venues. However, we do not."

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Thirty years after the MPEA tax was first imposed, Corry said the boundaries of the tax district need to be revisited.

"There have been so many changes in the last 30 years. You have new hot areas that have burgeoned, and they are not in the zone," Corry said. "One example of that is the Wrigley Field area. Bars have multiplied, and it's not in the zone. It's a go-to place for out-of-towners who come from those two venues to Wrigley Field, yet it's not a taxing boundary. It goes as far as Diversey and Ashland and we know nobody goes from those two venues out that far North."

Corry said he's come up with a way to solve the problem.

"If all of Chicago benefits from these two venues, than all of Chicago should be taxed, but at a much lower rate," he said.

Corry represents more than 50 business owners who feel the same way. He said his idea raises revenue, without creating a new tax. The idea is to lower the tax to .0625 percent, to be redistributed amongst all Chicago businesses.

"The tax district as is includes businesses just south of McCormick Place, and as far north as Diversey and Ashland, but it excludes Wrigleyville and U.S. Cellular Field, some of Chicago's most popular tourist attractions. This just doesn't make sense," he said.

Corry said he's been in touch with State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago). He hopes the proposal will be brought up at the Spring session of the Illinois General Assembly.

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