PHILADELPHIA (WTXF) - How is Philadelphia's controversial soda tax affecting businesses?
At Bruno's Pizza on Cheltenham Avenue right on the border between city and suburb, manager Melvin Robinson says the Philly soda tax he's forced to charge has dropped sales of the beverage by 60%.
"People aren't buying sodas,” Robinson said. “Nowhere in this neighborhood. On the Philadelphia side, nobody's buying sodas. Nobody could afford it!"
Robinson's claims mirror the numbers in a newly released survey conducted by Philadelphia city controller Alan Butkovitz.
88% of more than 700 business respondents said the soda tax has hurt their overall sales—most by more than 10%.
"There is a passion and an intensity to the feelings of these business owners that this tax is killing them," the controller said, announcing the findings.
But the survey may prompt more questions than answers. For one thing, it reflects claims made by soda retailers-- claims impossible to verify without hard numbers. Also, a map displayed by Butkovitz showing the number of businesses claiming losses from the tax, shows darker areas where the greatest number of impacted businesses are located. However, the map does not show greater numbers of harmed businesses located near the city’s borders with neighboring suburbs, where it would be easiest for customers to jump to the burbs to buy their sweetened drinks.
The survey does not attempt to explain why some customers are now buying outside the city. At Bruno's they told us they sell brand name 2-liter bottles for $2.95--just up and across the avenue, those same 2-liter drinks sell for $1.67 at The Fresh Grocer. The tax difference is a dollar. The price difference is $1.28.
Mayor Kenney was asked about the survey Monday and responded by blasting Butkovitz who lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary back in May.
"(The) sad part about it is, Alan Butkovitz is no longer credible,” Kenney said. “He is a failed candidate who's bitter, angry..."
But that passion the controller referenced on this issue is evident in Melvin Robinson's message to Kenney:
"Hey, I supported you. Got pictures with the mayor. You need to support us and stop this. This is insane!"