Patrons of many community theater groups and bars and restaurants featuring live music will get a break under Mayor Rahm’s Emanuel new budget proposal — but fans attending cultural events at larger venues will see an increase.
As part of his 2018 budget, Emanuel will propose an elimination of the 5 percent amusement tax on tickets for live cultural events at venues with a capacity of 1,500 or less, according to a news release. The current cut-off for venues to avoid paying the tax is a seating capacity of 750 or less.
“Chicago’s neighborhoods are filled with community theater groups and live music venues. They are part of the fabric of our communities, and a part of what makes Chicago so unique,” Emanuel said in a statement. “I don’t think we should stifle the culture of our neighborhoods by taxing Thalia Hall in Pilsen or the Metro in Lakeview at the same rate we’re taxing a 40,000 seat concert venue.”
For Bruce Finkelman, a managing partner of Thalia, the news is like “Christmas came early.”
“It’s nice to have the support of the city and we’d love to see the county follow suit and drop their tax,” Finkelman said. “Trying to keep a great arts scene in the city comes with expenses you have to navigate through, but this gives us another opportunity to keep the scene thriving.”
The proposal doubles the threshold of venues exempt from the tax, which benefits mid-sized cultural venues that are more likely to be located in neighborhoods, drive local economics and “showcase Chicago’s emerging talent,” according to a city news release.
The revamping of the city amusement tax code will also raise the taxes on all venues seating more than 1,500 to the same 9 percent amusement tax that sporting events are currently subject to. Under the old system, basketball or hockey games at the United Center were subject to a 9 percent tax, while concerts operated under the 5 percent tax.
The combined changes will result in a $15.8 million increase in tax revenue, city officials said.