booze.jpgSan Francisco is a drinking town with a budget problem, and Supervisor John Avalos thinks there’s a vast untapped source of revenue in barrooms and bodegas.

SF could glean as much as $17 million a year in revenue, in fact, if an Avalos proposal to impose a fee on alcohol is approved.

Past ideas to raise cash through the city’s drinkers including a five-cent surchage per alcoholic beverage. That’s now out the window: instead, retailers, wholesalers and breweries/distilleries will pay a fee of $.076 cents per ounce of booze slung within city limits. If approved, wholesalers would begin paying the fee on January 31, 2011.

The idea, Avalos said, is cost recovery: alcohol costs the city money in a variety of ways, from substance abuse treatment to vandalism to paying someone to wash the East Bay’s urine off of Broadway every weekend. Alcohol was the primary cause of death in roughly eight percent of natural deaths in San Francisco in 2006, and figured in homicides, suicides and — duh — drunken driving incidents. Tapping alcohol for cold, hard cash thus isn’t greed; it’s fair.

It’s not immediately clear how much support the proposal has in City Hall. The imposition of fees instead of outright taxes is a tactic employed by Mayor Gavin Newsom; Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker was coolly receptive.

“It’s an interesting proposition, but it’s one that affects tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of people,” Winnicker said. “And it doesn’t let the Board off the hook for the difficult budget decisions to be made over the coming weeks.”

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  • Haze Valet

    Ok. I will be classist here. I think the city should tax drinks over $10. These are obviously luxury beverages, and you can even get some amazing cocktails right at 10 at Bourbon and Branch and Burritt Room etc. However, any place that charges MORE than 10 is providing a luxurious environment that it is ok to tax.

    No. I do not want you to tax my beer. It’s called recycling, you alread tax my booze enough. Bean Bag already raised their beer price to 2.50 thereby making me destitute.

    This reeks of Zola-esque moralism and prohibition. Dont tax the drinking class… tax the…. (cliche)…rich.

  • Haze Valet

    Ok. I will be classist here. I think the city should tax drinks over $10. These are obviously luxury beverages, and you can even get some amazing cocktails right at 10 at Bourbon and Branch and Burritt Room etc. However, any place that charges MORE than 10 is providing a luxurious environment that it is ok to tax.

    No. I do not want you to tax my beer. It’s called recycling, you alread tax my booze enough. Bean Bag already raised their beer price to 2.50 thereby making me destitute.

    This reeks of Zola-esque moralism and prohibition. Dont tax the drinking class… tax the…. (cliche)…rich.

  • supertamsf

    I like the idea of a nickel a drink, and would gladly pay it. It could even turn into a fun city wide drinking meme.

  • supertamsf

    I like the idea of a nickel a drink, and would gladly pay it. It could even turn into a fun city wide drinking meme.

  • supertamsf

    I dunno, I paid $12 for a whisky & soda at Tonic on Polk St. Far from a luxurious environment.

  • supertamsf

    I dunno, I paid $12 for a whisky & soda at Tonic on Polk St. Far from a luxurious environment.

  • Xenu

    How about we only tax people who come from the East Bay and/or Marina to drink in the Mission on Friday and Saturday nights?

  • Xenu

    How about we only tax people who come from the East Bay and/or Marina to drink in the Mission on Friday and Saturday nights?

  • PolicyAction

    A nickel a drink for booze to pay for alcohol-related health services is trivial compared to the five dollar prices on drinks at a bar or hotel, if you are lucky. But the FEE — not a tax — is collected on the 400 or 500 wholesalers of booze who park their trucks in the middle of our streets every morning. Sure consumers will pay a tiny bit more — hopefully tourists and out of towners, but I hope the fee really gets paid by the three Big Alcohol European global corporations that control more than 70% of America’s beer and spirits market — MillerCoors, AB-InBev and Diageo.

    A nickel won’t stop anyone from drinking, but it can pay for the mop up costs.

  • PolicyAction

    A nickel a drink for booze to pay for alcohol-related health services is trivial compared to the five dollar prices on drinks at a bar or hotel, if you are lucky. But the FEE — not a tax — is collected on the 400 or 500 wholesalers of booze who park their trucks in the middle of our streets every morning. Sure consumers will pay a tiny bit more — hopefully tourists and out of towners, but I hope the fee really gets paid by the three Big Alcohol European global corporations that control more than 70% of America’s beer and spirits market — MillerCoors, AB-InBev and Diageo.

    A nickel won’t stop anyone from drinking, but it can pay for the mop up costs.