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Philadelphia grocery store to close, citing city’s soda tax

January 3, 2019

A Philadelphia supermarket is closing, with its owner blaming the city’s first-in-the-nation soda tax.

ShopRite store owner Jeff Brown has hung a banner outside the West Philadelphia market, saying it is closing March 14 as “a result of the Philadelphia Beverage Tax.” He said sales are down about 25 percent since the tax went into effect.

In 2016, Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to enact a tax on soda and other sweetened beverages. It charges 1.5 cents per ounce, with the money funding pre-K programs and improvements to parks and libraries.

More than 100 ShopRite employees will be given the opportunity of transferring to Mr. Brown’s 12 other stores.

Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney’s office said in a statement that Mr. Brown was “scapegoating” the soda tax.

“Neither he nor the beverage industry have yet to present any evidence that the tax has had any impact on sales,” the mayor’s office said.

The mayor cited an ongoing study by Harvard University, Johns Hopkins and the University of Pennsylvania that indicates “the beverage tax has not affected overall store sales, contrary to other public claims by this supermarket chain.”

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the beverage tax last summer. The Philadelphia Inquirer said the tax has raised less revenue than City Hall projected, and that the city has scaled back the number of community schools and pre-K seats that will be funded.

The paper said the tax is expected to raise about $78 million in the current fiscal year.

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