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Booze tax increase? No way, say packie owners

Charles Street Liquors in Beacon Hill.Nicolaus Czarnecki/Boston

Local package store owners and restaurateurs have a simple message for the Boston City Council when it comes to the recently proposed alcohol tax:

Don't do it.

City Council President Bill Linehan and Councilor Frank Baker are introducing a proposal that would levy a 1-2 percent tax on all alcohol sold in the city. The proceeds from such a tax, which would apply to alcohol sales at package stores, bars, restaurants and supermarkets, would fund substance abuse prevention and treatment programs in the city. The proposal is expected to be introduced at a council meeting today (Wednesday).

Retailers are none too pleased.

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“I think it’s another disaster for the city of Boston,” said Chris Petersen, the owner of Charles Street Liquors on Tuesday. “It’s going to drive business out of the city. You can’t have it in one city, it has to be equal across Massachusetts.”

Petersen viewed any tax increase as negative and thought it was a money grab by the city. He questioned whether the revenues would actually go toward helping those with addictions.

“That’s the dumbest thing,” he said. “At least they’re not saying ‘It’s to save the kids.’ They always go after these sin taxes. It’s a money grab, they just want more money to fund the city.”

Linehan, however, maintains that the proposal is designed to “create a solution for the betterment of those suffering from crippling alcohol and drug addictions.”

“As added revenue enters the public domain, our residents-in-need will be better equipped to get clean and sober and ultimately become valuable contributors to our local economy.”

Frank Anzalotti, the executive director of the Massachusetts Package Stores Association, was more diplomatic in Petersen, but still thought the tax increase was a bad idea. He said he understood that “there are a lot of people who have problems and need help.”

“We understand that needs to be done, but just picking an industry, and in this case a subset of an industry, just isn’t the right way to go about it,” he said. “You’re going to hurt the retailer and hurt the consumer as well. It doesn’t take a lot of money to drive people elsewhere.”

He feared that Boston could set a bad precedent that other municipalities would follow.

Bob Luz, president of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association indicated his group agrees with Gov. Charlie Baker that “we need to get past the common impulse to solve problems by imposing tax hikes on individuals and businesses.”

Councilor Baker did not immediately return a phone call for this story.

 
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