Corner Bakery Faces Off Against Town of Onancock in Meal Tax Tiff

The Corner Bakery on Market Street in Onancock on Thursday, April 22, 2021. Photo by Carol Vaughn.

By Carol Vaughn —

An Onancock bakery is challenging the town’s assertion that the business is required to collect meals tax on items it sells in bulk.
Pete Smith, of the Corner Bakery, in a Facebook post Wednesday detailed the bakery’s stance, saying the business’ policy has been to collect the meals tax on sales of items “clearly intended to be eaten in one serving,” such as individual donuts, slices of cake and pie, and the like.
“We do not collect a MEAL TAX on items that are sold in bulk and clearly not meant to be consumed in one sitting,” the post went on to say.
That would include whole cakes, packaged biscuits and rolls, pastries boxed by the dozen or more, and similar items.
Smith said most of the bakery’s sales do not come from customers coming in to eat donuts and a cup of coffee as a meal.
“We are a retail bakery, not a restaurant,” the post said.
Smith said the town ordered the business to immediately begin collecting the meals tax on all sales of items that are not factory prepackaged.
“We live in a low-income county. The meals tax the town wants us to impose on a customer who comes in and purchases pastries in bulk…would add a large sum to their total order. This is not fair to the customers and could have an impact on the number of our sales,” the post said.
The business received a letter from the town manager about the matter, according to Smith.
Smith went on to say in the post, “I have no intention of complying with their order.”
Smith asked people who agree to contact the mayor and town council members to voice support “in the fight against an unjust tax,” calling the matter “a fundamental issue of fairness.”
By Thursday morning, the Facebook post had been shared 500 times and garnered more than 90 comments expressing support for the bakery’s stance.
Smith said Thursday he has spoken with council members about the matter and he plans to speak at the upcoming town council meeting.
The council is holding its regular monthly meeting virtually Monday, April 26, at 7 p.m.
The meeting agenda, which was prepared prior to the bakery’s statement, as of press time did not include discussion of the meals tax. A revised agenda was emailed and posted on the town website Thursday afternoon; it includes as the fourth item “Discussion of Corner Bakery Meals Tax.” Additionally, as is typical, there is a public comment period during the meeting.
The meeting is virtual, meaning there is no in-person attendance.
To attend the meeting via Zoom, go to
Meeting ID: 852 1700 6394
Passcode: 513490
or join by telephone at 301-715-8592, meeting ID 852 1700 6394, passcode 513490,
or follow the link from the town website at
The town code, which can be viewed from a link on the town website and at, defines a meal as “any prepared food and drink, including alcoholic beverages, offered or held out for sale by a restaurant or caterer for the purpose of being consumed by an individual or group of individuals at one time to satisfy the appetite. All such food and drink shall be included, whether intended to be consumed on the seller’s remises or elsewhere, whether designated as breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper or by some other name, and without regard to the manner, time or place of service.”
A 5% tax is to be paid by the purchaser of every meal served, sold, or delivered in town by a restaurant or caterer.
Exemptions listed in the ordinance include food sold through vending machines, factory pre-packaged items, and food sold in bulk.
The term bulk sale “means the sale of any item that would exceed the normal, customary and usual portion sold for on-premises consumption (e.g., whole cake, a gallon ice cream),” according to the ordinance.

This article was updated Thursday afternoon to include the information that the agenda for Monday’s council meeting was revised to include discussion of the Corner Bakery meals tax.





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