WETHERSFIELD, Conn. (WTNH) — In the first full fiscal year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the state has shattered its prior record for sales tax collection. Nearly $5.3-billion was collected from June to June — more than a $630-million increase from the fiscal year 2020.

Some of that money will stay with restaurant owners. They have been granted a special “meals sales tax” remittance week.

The Charles, nestled in a 1790 home in the heart of Old Wethersfield, opened in the middle of the pandemic — a risky move.

“We had a lot of decisions to make to make sure we could survive the pandemic,” Bryce Hardy, the owner of The Charles, told News 8.

COVID-19 meant less than maximum capacity. Add to that, a worker shortage, supply chain issues, and rising costs.

Scott Dolch, the president of the Connecticut Restaurant Industry Association, said inflation is tricky.

“Inflation is real,” Dolch said. “Everyone knows it when you go into a grocery store and see what you pay for milk and eggs. The same thing is happening in the back of the house.”

This means restaurants are paying a premium for ingredients and trying to balance menu item pricing. They are spending money on outdoor dining and safe spaces inside, including special air filtration systems.

“A lot of the costs I’m going to be getting back from the sales tax is going to be going towards recouping those funds,” Hardy said.

He’s referring to the state passing a law designating a meals sales tax remittance week. Restaurant owners can choose one of three weeks in the year to keep the cash.

  • Aug. 1, 2021, to Aug. 7, 2021;
  • Dec. 12, 2021, to Dec. 18, 2021; or
  • May 15, 2022, to May 21, 2022

Dolch said it’s like an in-house grant.

“It allows all restaurants across the state of Connecticut to take the 7.35% sales tax that would normally be given back to the state, and they get to keep that,” Dolch said. 

Hardy chose to use the designated week in August. He said he was uncertain about the winter months and consumer confidence.

“Our sales were up in the fall, and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen in the winter,” he said. 

For some in the industry, it is helping them recover. For The Charles and other newcomers, it’s about moving on and growing their business.

“We’ve been very fortunate to have the support of our Wethersfield community and beyond,” Hardy said.

State lawmakers are looking at allowing outdoor dining permits to go beyond March and making to-go cocktails permanent.