Figures released last week by the Rhode Island Department of Revenue show that fiscal year-to-date collections of the local 1 percent meal and beverage tax were running 16.4 percent higher as of November 2017, compared with the same five-month period in 2016.
The gain from the July-November period amounted to $80,514. The tax had produced $570,221 in revenue for the Town of Westerly by the end of November, compared with $489,707 at the same time a year earlier. The tax is levied on sales of meals and beverages that are prepared away from home and is a direct barometer of economic activity, especially in a tourism-dependent town like Westerly.
Year over year, the November figures were especially striking. On a percentage basis, the town ranked first in Rhode Island among municipalities with more than a token amount of meal and beverage tax revenue. In November 2017, the tax yielded $106,639 in Westerly, an increase of 115.4 percent from November 2016, when the amount was $49,518. On a month-to-month percentage basis, Westerly ranked first among the 39 municipalities, with the $106,639 collection 75.2 percent more than the revenue from October 2017, $60,869, according to the state revenue department.
Bottom line: Westerly’s bars, restaurants, and other meal and drink vendors did more than $10.6 million of business last November, a time that is several months removed from the town’s peak tourism season.
— Sun staff