booze.jpgAs the wise philosopher Homer Simpson once said, alcohol is the “cause and solution to all of life’s problems.”

For San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, who is the chief sponsor of legislation that would impose an added fee on alcoholic beverages for wholesalers and distributors, alcohol may be the solution to help generate up to $16 million a year towards funding the city’s costs related to alcohol abuse.

In a Board of Supervisors’ Budget Committee hearing on Monday, Avalos said that he would consider amendments to the legislation that would exempt microbrewers and small-yield winemakers from the law, which originally called for a 4 to 6 cent increase in the cost of beer, wine and hard liquor per serving before supervisors suggested that these proposed fees be decreased by 25 percent. Now Avalos’ proposal would lead to a 3-cent-per-serving hike for a 12-ounce bottle of beer, 4.5 extra cents for a 6-ounce glass of wine and 3.5 cents for a standard drink with 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol.

Avalos also said that he is willing to meet with both fee naysayers and supporters alike before the full board takes up the proposal on September 7.

“This is not about me coming from the temperance society,” Supervisor Avalos said at the meeting. “This is really about how we can maintain a level of service in San Francisco for our great needs around alcohol prevention and treatment.”

Avalos has had to respond to a significant amount of backlash from everyone from the beer-bellied and the wine aficionados to the business owners who believe that the public should not have to bear the brunt of San Francisco’s budgetary issues. While some consumers may be ambivalent about having to pay a little extra for each cocktail at the bar or can of Duff from their convenient store, local small businesses are concerned they may not be able to bear the brunt that these higher prices would bring.

San Francisco Controller’s Office Chief Economist Ted Egan conducted a study on the fee which validates business owners’ concerns by showing that bars and restaurants would see anywhere from a .3%-1% decrease in alcohol consumption. He added that the fee’s potential impact on tourism, special events and employment rates is still not known, however.

“Ultimately the fee will result in reduced spending at retail distributors of alcohol due to reduced demand and reduced consumer spending on other commodities,” Egan told The Appeal last week.

At a recent City Hall rally sponsored by “Charge for Harm” proponents, Café Du Nord co-owner Guy Carson spoke out as one of the businessowners opposed to the fee, calling it a “job-killer.”

“It’s just one more example of City Hall looking to make it hard to do business in San Francisco,” Carson told the Chronicle.

So would this fee make a significant dent in your pocketbook? Are the “Charge for Harm” supporters justified in trying to get this legislation passed, or is this too much of a “charge for harm” for local bars and restaurants?

Perhaps most importantly (well, not really, but it’s an intriguing question for us Simpsons fanatics), what would Homer Simpson or Duff Man say to Supervisor Avalos?

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  • Wil

    The problem with a “3-6 cent tax per drink” is that drinks are priced for cash customers.

    If this passes, bars will have to choose whether to eat the additional 3-6 cents per drink, or to raise prices. If they raise prices, they’re not going to raise the cost of a beer from $4 to $4.06 – it’s going to be $5. 25% is a pretty hefty price increase in a down economy.

    Of course, bar owners could always protest this by demanding exact change, in the same way restaurants have added the “healthcare surcharge.” Probably wouldn’t fly at a busy nightclub but I could see it at a neighborhood bar or on a catering bill.

  • Wil

    The problem with a “3-6 cent tax per drink” is that drinks are priced for cash customers.

    If this passes, bars will have to choose whether to eat the additional 3-6 cents per drink, or to raise prices. If they raise prices, they’re not going to raise the cost of a beer from $4 to $4.06 – it’s going to be $5. 25% is a pretty hefty price increase in a down economy.

    Of course, bar owners could always protest this by demanding exact change, in the same way restaurants have added the “healthcare surcharge.” Probably wouldn’t fly at a busy nightclub but I could see it at a neighborhood bar or on a catering bill.