Food tax in Fairfax? Restaurant owners speak out: 'It's going to hurt'

Digging into a meal in Fairfax County could mean digging into your wallet more. 

Fairfax’s Board of Supervisors just announced a study to see how much money they could raise if they imposed a tax on food and beverages. But restaurant owners say that’s leaving a bad taste in their mouths. 

At Z-Burger in McLean, the popular local burger chain that opened in Fairfax County about two years ago, a double cheeseburger, large fries, and drink will run you about $23. But if Fairfax County imposes a 6% meal tax, it could push the price to almost $25.

Fairfax supervisors just voted to study a "meal tax" between 1% and 6% on food and beverages in restaurants, grocery stores and convenience stores. This comes just after the board approved a 3% property tax hike. 

Kevin Ejtemai, co-owner of Z-Burger, tells FOX 5 that prices for ground beef and potatoes have soared. Slapping restaurants with a new tax could be a knockout punch to many.

"Many restaurants have closed down as a result of imposing more stringent taxes. Food inflation and the cost of goods have put people at risk of losing their jobs," said Ejtemai. 


Protesters rally against Buc-ee's development in Stafford County

Protesters gathered outside the public safety center on Wednesday, opposing plans to build a Buc-ee's in Stafford County.

So why is Fairfax County considering a meals tax? Chairman Jeff McKay tells FOX 5 that the state of Virginia is underfunding schools, and they need to generate more revenue. Republican Supervisor Pat Herrity says a meal tax will hurt low-income folks and could risk jobs. But McKay says Fairfax is losing out on revenue because other counties already have meal taxes.

"Every jurisdiction around us except Loudoun County already imposes a meals tax. We’re an outlier, so how much money are they generating with their meals tax? Have they seen businesses leave those jurisdictions because of the meals tax?" said Jeff McKay, D-Chairman, Fairfax Board of Supervisors.

"This is going to hurt the restaurant industry. It’s going to hurt, and as we’ve seen, fast food has been decimated here as our residents have voted with their feet and decided it’s too expensive to eat out," said Pat Herrity, R-Fairfax Board of Supervisors.

Right now, this is only in the study phase. The county executive has been told to crunch the numbers and get back to lawmakers. Some estimates say it could raise $33 million a year. 

Herrity says he wants folks to speak out about this. McKay says a decision on whether they’ll have a meal tax or how big it would be will come in the next fiscal budget.