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May 30, 2014 10:51:36 AM
Starkville set a new March record for 2 percent food and beverage tax receipts as it reported about $8,300 more this year than it did last year, an improvement tourism officials say was driven by the success of the city's second annual Restaurant Week.
Launched last year, Restaurant Week targets out-of-town residents who live within a 60-mile radius -- about an hour's drive -- and attempts to bring them to Starkville, show off the city's culinary scene and entice future trips.
The event's organizers hold the event during the seven days following spring break, a week notorious for lower sales and 2 percent food and beverage tax receipts.
In addition to increased exposure, the event gained more participants this year due to large crowds that flocked to Starkville for Mississippi State University's baseball series against Vanderbilt University. In the three-day series, MSU announced a combined attendance of almost 26,500 fans.
With two days left in this year's event, the Partnership had collected 10,500 ballots for Restaurant Week's charity aspect -- the same total collected from 2013's seven-day event.
Organizers eventually counted 16,228 certified ballots from 33 restaurants and awarded a $5,000 donation to MSU's T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability.
Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory said most of the participating restaurants saw a 20 percent increase in sales during both years' events.
"Starkville Restaurant Week is meant to be an economic driver, and we were so pleased that the restaurant traffic and tax receipts reflected that," she said. "We expanded our advertising to include most of the Golden Triangle, and we believe we saw positive results from that choice. We are still compiling and analyzing numbers from our ZIP code survey, but we believe that the results will show that this is not only a local event, but a regional one."
Last year, Starkville reported a record $1.64 million from food and beverage purchases. Comparatively, the city recorded only $990,618 in 2004. Starkville is currently averaging $205,174 per month for 2013, but that pace is expected to slow during the summer months. The city averaged $136,705 per month in collections last year.
Starkville also reported $520,684 in sales tax receipts for the month, which is the fourth-highest recorded month on record for the city. Including March, Starkville has only eclipsed the $500,000 mark six times. The collection reflects an almost 6 percent increase from March 2013.
The city also set a record for March hotel and motel tax receipts with $16,593. Starkville began tracking the 2 percent tax in August 2011. This year's figured almost doubles the $11,378 recorded last year and exceeds 2012's previous high by about $10,000.
Counting the three calendar months, Starkville is outpacing 2013's monthly average for hotel taxes by about $11,000.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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