Carson businesses look forward to boost from Legislature
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series leading up to the start of the Legislature on Feb. 2.
A number of Carson City businesses ” particularly in the downtown corridor ” are looking forward to a boost in business once the 2009 Legislature opens.
And the list isn’t limited to restaurants and bars although, according to Carson Finance Director Nick Providenti, they get the biggest increase.
“It helps the local economy but primarily impacts the downtown restaurants, food and drinking places.”
A brief review of the past three or four years of taxable sales indicates at least some impact from the session. Using March as an example, Carson City was up 2.9 percent in 2005 ” a legislative year ” but down 3.9 percent in 2006, the off year. Then the capital was up again in March 2007, by 10.1 percent. The specific categories for food, eating and drinking establishments showed the same pattern ” down 2.4 percent in March 2006 but up 14.4 percent in 2007. This year’s March numbers for food and drink taxes were down again by 3.7 percent.
A business that sees a significant increase is Comma Coffee, across the street from the Legislature.
“It certainly does make a big difference,” said owner June Joplin. “My business is really reliant on Carson City. It’s a community coffee shop, a venue for local artists and musicians.
“The session: It’s the gravy, the opportunity to create a slush fund for the slow times.”
Joplin said lawmakers appreciate the shop’s relaxed, politically neutral atmosphere.
“They come over here to detox,” she said. “It’s Switzerland.”
She said the legislative clientele create “such a different atmosphere that comes into the city.”
“The economy would be great if they came in every year but it might wear us out.”
Comma Coffee and Pop’s on the corner of Third Street are joined by a new upscale restaurant this session: Firkin & Fox. Those three businesses have the advantage of being in view of anyone leaving the front door of the Legislature.
Jim Phalan, owner of Firkin & Fox, said he hopes the business he opened during this year’s two special sessions is “a foreshadowing of things to come.”
“The special sessions have been pretty good for us.”
He said Charlie Abowd of Adele’s, a favorite hang-out of lobbyists and lawmakers for more than a decade, has warned him and his mother to be prepared.
“This will be our first legislative session,” he said. “We’re hoping to see similar numbers like when we first opened (last January).”
John Sieben of Doppleganger’s said the Legislature will be “a pretty good bump for the downtown area.”
“Everybody benefits from having this group of people in town,” he said. “Not just the Legislature but their staffs, lobbyists and their staffs.”
But it’s not just restaurants, bars and coffee shops looking forward to the session.
Carson Treasurer Al Kramer said one small businessman recently came in and said he could afford only to pay half his taxes, telling Kramer the rest would come soon after the session begins.
Molly Gingell of Molly’s Gourmet Catering said her business does well during session and that she has already had a couple of calls, including from the Nevada Broadcasters’ Association.
“I’ve had some bites,” she said.
In Chun of Golden Hanger dry cleaners on Highway 50 East said the Legislature helps business a lot.
“It’s been slow,” she said. “When they’re in town, we get more business.”
Golden Hanger is popular with lawmakers, according to Assemblywoman Bonnie
Parnell, D-Carson City, because they deliver to the building.
“They’re busy,” said Chun. “But they need to wear a suit and tie. Everyone has to dress up. During session, they barely have time for a lunch break so we deliver.”
Joshua Rogers, manager of Fitness for $10 on Fairview Drive, said the gym has a good legislative clientele.
“We get a bunch of them,” he said. “Mostly guys but we get some of the women, too.”
He said memberships are normally a year-long contract but that they usually put together a special package for lawmakers ” a membership that lasts through the 120-day session.
Many businesses said things have been tight this year.
“I’m really counting on the session to bump me up,” Joplin said.
Sieben said he’s not taking the legislative business for granted.
“It’s a group you have to market to,” he said. “Discretionary businesses are the first ones to suffer and we’re discretionary. Like any other customers, they’re watching their cash.”
He said they are positioning themselves not as the sports bar his predecessors operated but as a more “upscale” restaurant, a brewery with an internationally recognized brewmaster and, later in the evening, a nightclub.
Phalan, too, said they are preparing, refining what they offer to make sure customers return and working to make sure quality is consistent.
But a few businesses said they see little if any increase from the Legislature. A spokesman at Kinko’s said they’d like to get some of the copying business from lobbyists and others making presentations to lawmakers but that they haven’t really seen any increase in the past.
And a beautician at a local shop said they don’t see any legislative business either. She said lobbyists and legislators tend to go home on weekends to their regular stylists.
– Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.