Court: Hotels ‘damaged’ by pandemic shutdowns don’t qualify for tax abatements
Justices reject claim that Covid was a ‘natural disaster’
Nine New Hampshire hospitality businesses have lost an argument that their forced closures during the start of the pandemic warrant property tax relief.
In an opinion released Tuesday, the state Supreme Court rejected their claim that the pandemic was a “natural disaster” that “damaged” their businesses, elements required for property tax abatement in New Hampshire.
Nearly all received federal pandemic assistance of at least $275,000 to help with business losses in the pandemic’s first several months. Two, 700 ELM in Manchester and Carnevale Holdings of Bedford, described in state records as real estate developers, each received over $1.1 million in federal assistance.
The nine businesses had been denied tax abatements, filed in 2021, by their local city and town tax departments. They appealed the denials to Superior Court. As part of that legal case, the parties agreed to pause proceedings to ask the state Supreme Court whether their buildings were damaged and whether that damage was due to a natural disaster, as required for a tax abatement. The court found they did not meet that legal threshold.
In a unanimous opinion, the justices said the buildings were not damaged under the law. “Notably, (the law) does not list as a factor the number of days that a business experienced economic loss,” the opinion said.
The ruling sends the case back to Superior Court for further arguments.
According to the state’s federal relief tracker, five of the nine businesses received money from the state’s Main Street Relief Fund or other federal aid for businesses: Clearview Realty Ventures of Laconia; JHM HIX and Vidhi Hospitality, both of Keene; and Naksh Hospitality and 298 Queen City Hotel of Manchester. Those payments ranged from about $157,000 to $278,000, according to the tracker.
They and three other businesses, 700 ELM and Anshi Hospitality of Manchester and Carnevale Holdings, also received paycheck protection funding, according to federal records; 700 Elm received the highest payment, nearly $1.2 million, the records showed.
The ninth business, Bedford-Carnevale of Bedford, did not receive federal funding as part of the paycheck protection program or business aid support.
This story was originally produced by the New Hampshire Bulletin, an independent local newsroom that allows NH Business Review and other outlets to republish its reporting.