Members of the Charlottesville Restaurant Association say people's dining habits rely too much on how the economy is doing, and those habits aren't stable.

Derek Bond owns Charlottesville's location of The Melting Pot. “Our whole concept is built around the perfect night out. And that's not just from a service and food part, that's from how much people spend,” he stated.

He says raising the city's meals tax could steer people away from dining in Charlottesville; “They have the ability of going to Lynchburg. They could go to Staunton, Waynesboro.”

Charlottesville City Council is considering a budget that includes a one percent increase in the tax people pay at restaurants but Councilor Bob Fenwick doesn't support the tax hike.

“The argument for raising the meals tax is in effect, it's easy, raise it one penny. I mean, what is one penny? Who can worry about a penny? We can raise $2.1 million,” he said. “In a manner of speaking, raising the taxes is an easy way out of balancing the budget.

Maya owner Peter Castiglione is collecting signatures for a petition against the meal tax. “We're asking the city and we've talked with city councilors, one on one, as a restaurant association to dive back in and let's take a look at this budget,” he said.

Castiglione calls the tax increase unfair. “It's a poor tax structure that does not tax evenly across the landscape. Had the city raised property taxes, even though you may or may not want to raise them, at least everyone in that landscape across the city who owns property is being taxed on some relatively even level.”

The Charlottesville Restaurant Association, which formed after the meals tax hike was proposed, is meeting Thursday to discuss the issue.

City council has several public hearings before councilors vote on the budget March 30.