Irmo approves a local hospitality tax

By Al Dozier

Small businesses struggling to get by because of the COVID-19 pandemic could find some relief through a program approved Tuesday by the Irmo Town Council.

The council approved a $125,000 allocation to the Irmo Future Growth Corporation, which will provide loans to small businesses in the Irmo area in need of assistance. That amount could increase to $250,000 if needed, according to the measure approved by council.

The plan would offer loan amounts up to $10,000 for a 24-month term with six months of payments deferred, followed by 18 monthly principal and interest payments.

Future Growth Corporation agreed to a “50/50 loss-sharing agreement,” according to an outline of the program provided by Irmo’s bank partner, Security Federal Bank.

Eligible small business applicants would have to be located within the town of Irmo and have a business license in good standing. They must have been in business as of March 1, 2018.

Small businesses are defined as having less than 50 employees.

In other action the council gave final reading to an ordinance providing for a local hospitality tax on the sale of prepared meals and beverages in the town of Irmo. The tax would add 2 cents on a dollar to a customer’s bill beginning June 1, 2021.

Mayor Barry Walker Sr., a former restaurant owner, originally opposed the measure but voted in favor of it at Tuesday’s meeting.

“I know it’s going to be a burden, but we have to do it,” said Walker

Walker agreed with other council members that the measure would provide the town with a needed source of revenue.

Councilwoman Kathy Condom said it was something needed for the future.

“I don’t like taxes,” she said. “But we have to make the town functional.”

The council also gave final reading to a measure that changes the number of regular council meetings from two, to one a month. The council will continue to have two meetings a month, but one of them will be a “workshop” that helps lay the groundwork for actions to be taken at the regular council meetings.

The council had measures on the agenda to reimburse the Irmo Arbor Day $4,400 for survey work, and McGee Real Estate $995 for appraisal work on a recently donated, six-acre tract of land but Town Attorney Jake Moore said both organizations have agreed to make those expenses donations to the town as it plans development of the property behind the Irmo Wellness Center.

The council recognized Mathias Sandwich Shop as the December Small Business of the Month. The shop is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a retail business.

The council appointed Audra Hawisher to the planning commission. Lauren Sherr was appointed to the Okra Strut Commission.

The council agreed to send a letter of support for a proposed multi-sports complex planned for the Irmo area that is expected to generate revenue for the town in the future.