Irwin’s amusement tax plan could cost Lamp Theatre patrons $1 more
Patrons of Irwin’s Lamp Theatre could pay an extra dollar per ticket rather than a 5 percent levy, if borough officials follow through on plans to implement an amusement tax next year.
“A flat fee is easier for them to budget for,” council President Rick Burdelski said this week during a workshop.
Borough solicitor Zachary Kansler will be directed to prepare an ordinance setting the proposed tax at $1 per ticket. Council could vote to advertise the proposed ordinance at Wednesday’s regular meeting.
The theater sold 20,000 tickets in 2017, said Valerie Morton, borough manager. If each of the 20,000 tickets cost $20, a five-percent amusement tax would have generated $35,000.
Tickets for upcoming shows range in price from $15 to $49.75, according to the theater’s website .
Borough council has discussed the amusement tax on entertainment ticket sales for months. Tickets sold for entertainment sponsored by nonprofit charitable organizations such as schools and churches, regardless of the venue, are excluded. The Lamp is operated by a nonprofit, The Lamp Theatre Corp., according to the Pennsylvania Department of State.
The proposed amusement tax has come under fire from supporters of the Irwin theater, the renovated downtown entertainment venue that has been the site of plays, concerts, comedy acts and movies since November 2015. A protest was held at the theater last month. Supporters contend the tax could hurt attendance because of higher ticket prices.
Lamp Theatre board President John Gdula said the theatre board will wait until it gets the opportunity to read the draft of the ordinance, before commenting on the specifics.
“We talked about it with members of council and we would like to them more,” Gdula said.
“I feel they are unnecessarily nervous” about the impact of the fee on the price of a ticket, Mayor William Hawley said.
Borough officials have said the tax is not directed at the theater. They said the tax also would be placed on tickets sold at businesses, such as Antonelli’s, or taverns that charge admission for live bands.
The Main Street theater, however, is the most active venue.
“Their complaint is they are the only ones” that would be subject to the amusement tax, Burdelski said.
Councilwoman Gail Macioce, who is a singer, said although it is coming under fire for the proposed tax, the borough contributed a lot of money and employees devoted many hours to renovate the theater. The borough acquired the closed theater building in 2013. It charges the theater board $1 per month in rent.
“We don’t want to hurt the Lamp. It’s not a vindictive thing. It is a matter of business,” said Macioce, pointing out the tax would be a “pass-through” paid by the patrons.
At the August council meeting, a Lamp patron objected to the borough collecting a fee on ticket prices then using the money “to patch a pothole” rather than putting it back into the facility.
Councilwoman Debbie Kelly said without the borough’s assistance, the theatre could not have reopened.
“They don’t grasp it,” Kelly said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252 or [email protected]