About 15 people - bloggers, freelancers, and small-business owners - took up the city's invitation to meet for happy hour Wednesday in Old City to clear the air about what they owe in taxes and fees.
At least that many city representatives were on hand at National Mechanics, a bar on Third Street, to lend a sympathetic ear and also dispel lingering notions that Philadelphia has a "blogger's tax."
Andrea Mannino, special assistant to the city's revenue commissioner, said that city officials have begun to discuss changing, and maybe even eliminating, the fee required for a business privilege license.
The controvery erupted when bloggers who made just a few dollars from their sites complained about having to pay the $300 lifetime privilege license. They could pay the annual $50 fee instead, but even that would be more that what most bloggers make.
One blogger in the audience said she made $10 a year in ad revenue to cover her $10 blog hosting fee.
Unfortunately, that $10 was revenue and she had to get a license, a city official told her. But the city also feels her pain. "We see that license is a problem," Mannino said.
A change to the fee, however, would require City Council approval, and Mayor Nutter is busy with a property tax overhaul, officials noted.
So the fee isn't going anywhere for a while.
Geoff DiMasi, a small business owner, complained that the requirements for starting a business in Phialdelphia are too complicated, and suggested the city conduct a study to see how the process looks from the outside.
Manino agreed that the city needs to make business rules streamlined and easier to understand.
After the happy-hour session, DiMasi said the gathering was somewhat helpful, but much more needs to be done.
"I want the city to rethink the process" for businesses, he said.
He moved his family to Collingswood, N.J., because he felt it was a better place to raise his two children.
His companies, including a web design firm, remain in Philadelphia, but he has thought about leaving because he would make more money being located elsewhere.
"I don't need to be here," DiMasi said.
"I'm here because I want to be," he said. "I'm making decisions with my heart, not my brain."