Sevier Co. sees decrease in sales tax revenue since fires

Sevier county businesses are struggling to recover after the wildfires. However, they remain optimistic.

Nearly six months after the Sevier County wildfires, some business owners in the area say sales and traffic are down.

Sevier County finance officials anticipated a decrease after the disaster, but they also expect an increase in sales tax revenue for the summer into fall months.

The Alamo Steakhouse in Gatlinburg is one of 12 restaurants owned and operated by the Johnson Family of Restaurants.

They are just one of the many business owners feeling the economic impact from the devastating fires.

"Business has been dicey, that's the technical term I'm going to use. It's been, it's not great certainly," said Kelly Johnson, the co-owner. 

Johnson said all 11 of their operating restaurants in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg are not seeing a catastrophic decrease, but it is noticeable.

"Certainly not at 2016 numbers by any stretch of the imagination in any of the cities," she added. 

The county said 2016 was a record year for sales. Before the fire, the county saw a seven percent increase in sales tax.

"Since the fires, we've seen a down tick which we assumed would happen. We are seeing about an average of 5 percent through February down from the prior year," said the county's finance director, Bryan McCarter. 

Although they are seeing a downward trend, they are seeing increases in other markets like lodging. 

For example, McCarter said their lodging partners have reported more bookings set for the mid to late summer months.

"Tourism is by far our largest industry. Tourism is what drives this county," he added. 

The latest numbers from the state, in 2015, rank Sevier County third for tourism spending.

"When you start seeing the numbers, and then you see the actual folks that were affected by this it begins to paint a picture of how we are interdependent on each other and the tourism industry is a large part of our economy," McCarter said. 

As the Johnson's begin to rebuild the Alamo Steakhouse, they anticipate and hope for change not only for their business but for the entire county.

"It's going to be a long summer and then the leaves will start changing and people will start to remember why  they love Gatlinburg and that Gatlinburg is there and ready so hopefully they will all come back," Johnson said. 

© 2017 WBIR.COM


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment