By Michael Gaffney
Since my last article about the busting Worcester restaurant scene, additional closures (but certainly not all) now include:
British Beer Company
Papa Ginos (x3)
The Citizen Wine Bar
Legacy Bar and Grill
7 Nana Japanese Steakhouse
Ho Toy Luau Restaurant
(Honorable mention) Sir Morgan’s Cove – “The Cove Music Hall”
It is always unfortunate when a business fails. It means the owners are placed in a difficult financial position, often bankruptcy. Employees are obviously out of a job and income. A neighborhood is often left with an empty storefront. And the City is left with less tax revenue not only from the property, but also the extra taxes from food sales.
While the local media continues to push the same propaganda about a renaissance in Worcester, the reality of continued tax breaks for corporations, millionaires, billionaires is clear. Small businesses are being pushed out as they (and residents) are forced pay a disproportionate share of the increased spending. Worcester’s administration continues to raise taxes and find new ones.
So what is the excuse for the restaurant closings?
If you guessed high taxes, growth in surrounding communities with lower taxes, high cost of water (to include water hook ups), the ridiculous impediments by numerous city regulations, or lack of parking you would be correct.
But, this being Worcester, the reasons given by others are more akin to excuses:
“The food was lousy” or some other form of the same comment. Well, that’s a completely subjective opinion. I would rather eat raw meat off the bottom of a garbage bin than eat anything at the 99 Restaurant or Applebee’s, but many people love it. Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t make it bad.
“They abandoned Worcester” or the like. When one restaurant owner indicated the troubles with doing business in Worcester that contributed to the business demise, it resulted in an attack on the owner. Apparently, learning the troubles with doing business in Worcester was “putting Worcester down” as per the James McGovern and Joe Petty talking points.
“Well, a new restaurant is coming in there” or similar. It is capitalism after-all. But, if you lived in a neighborhood where a significant portion of your neighbors lost their homes in foreclosure every few years, you’d probably be concerned. I mean, we have seen the cycle happen before, Coral Seafood to BBC to possibly now Mexicali. But not in Worcester, where a renaissance is built upon the misfortunes of others without any reflection on the policies that caused it to begin with.
And, no, it is not good policy to just push more taxes on the residents. The tax rate classification argument just continues to avoid responsibility for tax increases by pitting residents against businesses. Fixing the tax rate issues starts with reigning in year over year tax increases.
In the past couple years, Worcester’s elites have been pushing the notion of Worcester as a “foodie” town. As a person whose eating habits have been criticized on social media commentators due to my frequency of eating out at Worcester’s local restaurant, I must say, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen any of the local politicians or administration at a local restaurant (unless there was a ribbon to be cut). If they truly cared about the scene as more than a talking point, then it is time to start reflecting upon the policies that are destroying these small businesses.