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Restaurants celebrating HST's demise



Local eateries are hopeful that the switch back to PST will bring in more customers, but they aren't counting the extra earnings yet.

"It comes at an awfully good time," said Cate Simpson of Earl's reflecting back to the great weather over the Easter holiday long weekend.

"It's the time of year when people are beginning to relax and go out a bit more anyways so I think it will only help. The fact that the taxes have come down a little bit will only add to that."

She predicted that the tax change might prompt more customers visiting the chain's Whistler restaurant to take a closer look at more expensive wines to go with their meals.

The Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) welcomed the re-introduction of the Provincial Sales Tax (PST) and the federal Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1. The organization published a news release saying that B.C. now has food tax fairness.

Restaurant meals were taxed at 12 per cent under the Harmonized Sales Tax. Now meals served in restaurants are subject to the five per cent PST, but the seven per cent GST doesn't apply.

According to the CRFA, restaurants across B.C. suffered a $1.5 billion loss in sales between the launch of HST and now. The CRFA has reported that restaurant growth in B.C. has been 1.4 per cent. Sales growth at restaurants across the rest of the country in the same period was reportedly 11.5 per cent.

Andre St-Jacques, owner of the upscale Bearfoot Bistro, said the change is a complicated one for restaurants because the PST doesn't apply to everything restaurants do.

"Certain things you apply it on and certain things don't," said St-Jacques.

He predicted it will take a few months for the restaurant industry to determine the impact of the tax change. St-Jacques said price conscious restaurant owners will look at potentially reducing prices.

"For the Bearfoot Bistro I think that is not really going to be an issue," said St-Jacques. "People see that there is a tax and of course they see that it was 12 per cent and now it is going to be a little less, but I don't think it is going to attract people to the restaurant more often or less often if there is a five per cent tax difference on their meal."

Mark von Schellwitz, the CRFA western Canada Vice President, predicted healthy growth for the restaurant sector in B.C. over the next few months.


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