Small family-style businesses are becoming a thing of the past as real estate developers and national chains begin to dominate the market in the District, local storeowners said at a community meeting last week.
Washington imposes more taxes and mandatory costs on small businesses than any other state, according to an annual study by the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council. Last Tuesday, business owners met near Adams Morgan to discuss tax increases on small businesses.
D.C. Councilmember Jim Graham, who allocated $11 million from the District government to small businesses, organized the meeting.
“We have withstood the riots, Metro construction, drug trafficking, crime. Our trucks have been stolen and vandalized,” said Rick Lee, owner of Lee’s Flower and Card Shop on U Street. “Without any stimuli we have seen our taxes more than double. The last couple of years have been ridiculous.”
Lee has been in business for 40 years and said it has only gotten bad recently.
Many storeowners said local residents do not support their businesses and property taxes are increasing too quickly.
“Most of our neighbors are not supporting our businesses, so where are we supposed to get our money from?” said Addie Green, a restaurant owner. “This is a major slap in the face and I feel victimized.”
Graham pointed out that the city has not been very accurate in dealing with the tax increases. He said U Street has been disproportionably affected.
Since Morton Toole and his wife opened up a bookstore on Capitol Hill, they said they have seen a 100 percent increase in taxes – which is affecting their business.
“You have here tonight businesses that are bleeding,” Toole said. “What I’m imploring that we do is to have the council roll back the taxes for small businesses to the 2004 level. And that’s not asking too much.”
Frank Smith, who works at the African-American Civil War Museum, said he helped create a Civil War memorial in the area to boost tourism and business revenue.
“We have a moral responsibility to help protect the small businesses,” Smith said. “I would argue that the city council, mayor and government have a moral responsibility to do something about this.”
Shop owners in Foggy Bottom said they are also being affected by property tax increases.
Marion Lewis, owner of Music Box Center on 19th and I streets has been there for about 10 years.
“I don’t want to close down in spite of everything. All around people are going out of business,” Lewis said. “I’m going to stay because I don’t want to retire because that keeps me going.”