The voluntary 1 percent fee, which bars and restaurants would collect from patrons to help finance the U.S. Olympic Committee’s new headquarters building, has serious structural problems, said Travins, who is part-owner and regional manager of Concept Restaurants, which owns Jose Muldoon’s, MacKenzie’s Chophouse and The Ritz Grill in downtown.
“Let me make one thing clear, there’s no one in this city who wants the USOC to stay here and be downtown more than me,” he said. “It’s not just that the building is located right between two of our restaurants (MacKenzie’s and The Ritz), but it’s also personal. I spent three years as an athlete at the Olympic Training Center, playing handball. I was on the national team. The people at the OTC, the athletes and the people who work there, are the kind of people that I’ve been around for most of my life. So I’m very, very supportive of this effort.”
But Travins said he doesn’t think the mayor’s plan is fair or workable.
“First, it’s voluntary, so I might be doing it, but my competitor up the street might not,” he said. “And I don’t think that customers are going to go to one restaurant rather than another on the basis of whether or not they support the USOC.”
Travins also said there are collection problems.
“When you go to the bar at The Ritz on Saturday night and order a beer, we charge you four bucks, and back out the sales tax,” he said. “We have to do that to maintain efficient, quick service. You’re really paying $3.86 – so do we just absorb the extra 1 percent?”
Travins said that as much as half of Concept’s business comes from those kinds of cash sales.
“Of course there are other options,” he said. “Cover charges aren’t subject to sales tax, so you can have a cover charge and then sell the first two beers for a penny – it’s legal.”
Travins said there are better options to raise the money needed for the project.
“I think that a mill levy (assessed by the Downtown Metro District) would be better,” he said. “It’d be fair, easy to administer and everybody would have to pay, if a majority of property owners voted for it. And it’d raise just as much as the PIF.”
Travins also has a few ideas about how to reduce the price tag of the headquarters project.
“How much is that skybridge (from the city parking structure at Colorado and Nevada Avenues to the USOC building) going to cost, anyway?” he asked. “A couple of million? Colorado Springs isn’t Chicago – I don’t see why we need it.”