Park City escaped session ‘unscathed’
While unhappy or confused about some bills the Legislature passed March 10, many Park City business leaders say they are happy with how the session ended considering it was a year of budget cuts.
Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, said he was pleased the community emerged "somewhat unscathed."
"There were some positives and some negatives, but all in all, we got through the session without too many things that affect us negatively," he said Tuesday.
The Utah Office of Tourism’s marketing fund was given $7 million. That’s a slight increase from last year.
Malone said Park City businesses benefit from that money because it brings more visitors to the state, but also because 20 percent of it is earmarked for cooperative marketing that can promote Park City and skiing more directly.
Last year his organization was able to get nearly $200,000 to spend specifically on promoting Park City’s winter offerings to its best markets.
"Without those dollars our efforts would be sizably smaller," he said.
Leigh von der Esch, managing director of the Utah Office of Tourism, said the marketing budget is still down considerably from pre-recession levels of $11 million. All things considered, a $50,000 increase from last year is good news, she added.
"Tourism has always been seen as a leader of economic revival. That’s certainly been the case this winter in Park City," she said.
The summer campaign will be new and fresh this year, von der Esch added. In place of nation-wide ads on cable stations, her office will be targeting television audiences in Portland, Ore.; Denver; Phoenix; Las Vegas and Los Angeles. This will allow her office to highlight Park City’s offerings to people burning up in Arizona and the warmth of Zion National Park to people in the Pacific Northwest.
Malone also said he was pleased that efforts to change the restaurant tax rate failed again. It is considered unfair in some parts of the state, but locally, the restaurant community sees a direct benefit from the way that money is spent.
"The appetite for trying to get that changed may be waning a bit," he said. "The restaurant tax in Summit County works."
The Park City Chamber/Bureau is also pleased with how the immigration debate was resolved, Malone added.
Counterparts in Arizona reported significant loss of business because of the national backlash and boycotts following harsh immigration enforcement, he said. Utah could potentially have lost meetings and convention business depending on how the Legislature handled the issue.
While most changes to Utah’s liquor laws were designed to promote economic growth, others could make hosting special events difficult, Malone said.
A new regulation that may restrict the number of beverages an event attendee can consume could seriously complicate the Park City Food & Wine Festival, he explained.
Park City restaurateur Hans Fuegi said the impact will be determined when the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control decides how to interpret the new rule.
Fuegi, a board member of both the Utah and Park City restaurant associations, said the session was "definitely interesting."
He said the creation of 40 additional liquor licenses was good news, as was allowing liquor to be served as early as 11:30 a.m.
However, the restriction on the number of beverages served during a special event could have negative implications for many, he added.
Fuegi said he and the other representatives from the restaurant association struggled to understand what problem the lawmakers were trying to prevent, in order to suggest alternatives.
If a bartender at a special event is certified, they are responsible for not over-serving a patron. On the other hand, efforts to restrict the number of drinks with tickets or wristbands are rarely effective, Fuegi said.
A compromise was to require seating to be available. Fuegi said he did not understand how that would solve anything.
"We keep adding layers that do or say the same thing," he explained. "We’d rather see rules simplified so they are more easily enforceable This session didn’t really make a positive step toward making it easier for a consumer to understand our rules."
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