Miguel Medrano, a North Philly bodega owner for the past 20 years, says it has never been as difficult to keep his business afloat as it has been since the soda tax came into effect this past January.
"There are many people who have sold their businesses because the situation is unsustainable," Medrano said.
Some 18,000 letters and petitions echoing Medrano's sentiments were delivered by the Ax the Bev Tax Coalition Monday to members of City Council, in advance of a hearing of the city's 2018 budget. The coalition, which includes representatives of the beverage industry, maintains that the tax on soft drinks is an attack against local businesses.
"This tax has been particularly hard on stores like ours, wich operate in neighborhoods that are very close to the suburbs," said Sean McMenamin, president of McMenamin Family ShopRites, which owns two supermarkets in the Far Northeast.
In a press release the coalition states that the tax impacts the prices of 3,000 products including iced teas, energy drinks, flavored waters and some milk substitutes.
Councilwoman María Quiñones Sánchez, who represents City Council District 7, said that she believes there are other ways to raise money for the pre-K education the soda tax is earmarked to fund. "We are working on initiatives to help supermarkets in neighborhoods," she said. "I have been consistent during the past 10 years in City Council saying that small businesses are the ones that generate jobs in some neighborhoods, and they must be protected."
"What many customers do is that they go to nearby businesses to buy the merchandise," Medrano said. He added that after the implementation of the soda tax he has lost about $200 a day in sales.
Mayor Jim Kenney's spokesperson, Lauren Hitt, said in a written statement that "While it's impossible to verify the authenticity of these signatures, we do know that thousands of Philadelphians are already benefiting from this tax."
"There are nearly 2,000 children in free, quality pre-K," Hitt added, "over 250 new jobs in early education; and 4,500 public school students in community schools. These numbers would be even greater if the soda industry wasn't continuing to pursue a lawsuit against the city even after the court of common pleas dismissed their charges in entirety."