DESTIN — Customers shopping at the Destin Commons may notice an extra fee listed at the bottom of their receipts.

 

According to Senior Director of Marketing and Leasing Heather Ruiz, the outdoor shopping center recently implemented a 2% arts and entertainment fee on most purchases.

Approximately 25 stores are already charging the fee. The fee will be applied to every store and restaurant at the mall, once the Commons goes through the legal process to amend the remaining tenant leases.

"It is in order for us to continue the events that we are providing at the caliber we do it," Ruiz said. "Every other entertainment venue does it."

Kevin Schmidt, a recent shopper at the Destin Commons, said he became aware of the fee while trying to eat at Paula Deen's Family Kitchen last month.

However, this weekend, while shopping at Pink and Blue Avenue, he noticed the 2% fee was listed as a "Destin Municipal Tax." A small sign at the register indicated the "tax" was an arts and entertainment fee.

Ruiz, after being contacted by the Daily News Tuesday morning, said she was not aware of the way Pink and Blue Avenue labeled the charge.

"Obviously not, that's not legal," Ruiz said, adding she would get to the bottom of the issue.

Destin City Council member Steve Menchel said in a Facebook post that he too was made aware of the "Destin Municipal Tax" designation this week. Menchel said not only does Destin not have a municipal tax, but the Destin Commons is not within the city limits.

Ruiz said the local business was contacted later Tuesday afternoon. The store owner told the Daily News that the 2% entertainment fee was put into the system incorrectly. 

Ruiz said the business would stop charging the fee until it could be properly noted on the receipts.

The fee is optional for customers at all the businesses, Ruiz said. 

"If the customer declines to pay it we do have to remove the fee," she said. "Up until recently we’ve been the only retail, restaurant and entertainment venue that hasn’t leveraged it. Every location that currently has the fee has signage that explains exactly what it is."

Ruiz said the money from the fee, which began in March, will be used to fund free arts and entertainment offerings.

Schmidt, also a Destin business owner, said he believes the entertainment fee is unnecessary.

"I think that it's ridiculous that a business and corporation would impose an entertainment fee on people who don't know what is right or wrong here," he said. "We have the HarborWalk fee and now we have the Destin Commons fee. They charge such high prices on their tenants that they can't provide entertainment to visitors?

"If you can't afford to do certain events, don't do it," he continued. "During those events, people come and spend money inside the stores. It's silly."