booze.jpgA controversial fee proposed for SF alcohol distribution is expected to be heard by the full Board of Supervisors today. This should be a fun meeting! Update: No meeting today (so no booze fee talk), due to a print advertising snafu. Whoops!

The “Charge for Harm” ordinance, introduced by Supervisor John Avalos in June, seeks to recover an estimated $18.1 million in alcohol-related costs (for treatment, emergency ambulance transport, prevention and treatment programs, and administrative costs the city presently spends on booze-related issues) to the city, according to the city controller’s office, by imposing a fee on wholesalers and distributors that would add about 3 cents to a 12-ounce bottle of beer, 4.5 cents to a 6-ounce glass of wine and 3.5 cents to a standard drink with 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol.

As many have noted, this fee’s pretty unpopular, with many bar owners up in arms, and arguing, according to Mission Local that the proposal “is badly timed and will do little to curb drinking.”

Avalos, however, blames “big alcohol” (who doesn’t love a conspiracy?) for the bar owners’ freakouts, saying that his op-ed in today’s Chronicle defending his proposal says “Unfortunately, big alcohol has employed two San Francisco lobby firms to whip up local opposition to the fee and foment fear among bar and restaurant owners and local merchants’ organizations. They claim the fee will be passed through as a 50 cents-to-$1 increase on a serving, and have dressed up the fee as a major job and business killer.”

One business sure not to be killed by the ordinance — the legal one: the Chron reports that “Industry opponents of the proposal are expected to sue if it is enacted.” That is, if the ordinance gets the 8 votes it would need to override the veto Mayor Gavin Newsom’s already promised he’d give the bill.

How about you? Has “big alcohol” gotten you all worked up, too, or are you OK with paying a little more to drink?

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at

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