Remember the good old days when Arkansas Business could rank the highest-grossing restaurants in various cities based on the taxes they collected and remitted to their local advertising and promotion commissions?
And remember that we can’t do that anymore because then-Rep. Micah Neal, along with being on the take, sponsored legislation that exempted A&P tax data on individual restaurants and hotels from the state Freedom of Information Act?
Neal is a restaurant owner in Springdale, which does not have an A&P tax on restaurants as it does on hotels, but he seemed concerned that sales at Neal’s Café might someday be subject to the FOI — along with hundreds of other restaurants and hotels across the state.
The Largest Hotels in Arkansas, ranked by number of guest rooms (including suites.)
So now all we can legally receive from cities is the total A&P taxes collected, as we did for 12 of the larger cities and published on Page 11 of this issue.
But something strange happened in El Dorado a few days ago. That city’s A&P Commission released a complete list of A&P hotel tax collections, by property, to the El Dorado News-Times, which reported on Feb. 8 that the Candlewood Suites, which opened a year ago, “racked up nearly $2.2 million in gross receipts, the most that was reported by the then-11 lodging establishments in town.” (A new Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott opened in January.)
The report was reprinted last week by the News-Times’ sister publication, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. But neither publication mentioned that “information related to taxes collected by particular entities” is not public record under Act 1102 of 2015.
The sky having not fallen after this violation of the FOI suggests that repealing Neal’s change in the law would do no real harm. But Aaron Sadler, a lobbyist for the Arkansas Press Association, said no bill has been introduced in the current session to do that.
Meanwhile, it is no crime to publish information mistakenly released. So here are revenue totals for the 11 hotels that collected El Dorado’s 3 percent A&P tax last year:
|Hampton Inn Suites||$1,789,993|
|Country Inn & Suites||$1,370,335|
|Holiday Inn Express||$1,264,446|
|Comfort Inn & Suites||$1,182,603|
|Super 8 Motel||$761,639|
|Union Square Guest Quarters||$576,652|
|El Dorado Inn||$171,067|