Spending at restaurants and bars is up in Grand Forks.
Overall, retail income in the city is down, but restaurants and bars are not seeing the same drop, said City Finance Director Maureen Storstad.
Grand Forks is bucking a national trend, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which states U.S. retail sales have slowed for a second consecutive month this year and there has been a drop-off nationally in spending at restaurants, bars and department stores, according to that same data from the Commerce Department.
Grand Forks has a one-fourth percent sales tax on prepared food, beverages, on-sale alcoholic beverages and lodging.
Sales tax revenue is down overall, Storstad said, but the city's one-fourth percent tax is up.
The revenues from this tax are up 10.74 percent from last year. In September 2017, the food, beverage and lodging tax collected $373,895. Last month, it collected $414,044.
Storstad credits the increase to more events coming to Grand Forks via the Alerus Center and the Ralph Engelstad Arena.
"Events in town have a direct impact on collections," she said. "These events are bringing people into town, and they are spending money on food and drinks before and after the events." The community has been "incredibly busy" when it comes to the different conventions, concerts and festivals that have been in the city, said Julie Rygg, executive director of the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It is very positive in regard to bringing people into town and bringing people in town out," Rygg said. "And The Ralph and the Alerus Center are absolutely instrumental in bringing them in."
The Alerus Center will host a hundred more events this year than last, the venue's general manager Anna Rosburg said. In 2017, there were 326 budgeted events, and this year the venue has 438 slated for its planning books.
And the Alerus Center is budgeting a 4 percent increase in events in 2019, Rosburg said.
"I think we are making a positive impact on the community and tax revenue," she said. "And we're excited about the progress that we're making."
Management company Spectra took over running the Alerus Center in July 2017.
The Alerus Center has brought in more events since the company took over, Storstad said. The events Spectra are bringing in are diverse and are bringing in different segments of the population, she said.