Grandson of Dick's Drive-In founder wants referendum on head tax

The first Dick's Drive-In was opened in 1954 in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood.

SEATTLE — The grandson of Dick’s Drive-In founder Dick Spady said that Seattle’s new head tax will greatly impact his family’s iconic restaurants.

Dick's Drive-In was founded in Seattle in 1954. Grandson Saul Spady told KIRO Radio's Dori Monson that while Dick's doesn't intend to leave Seattle, it also doesn't plan to establish any new restaurants in the city as long as the head tax is in place.

“This tax has really forced us to say, ‘I don’t think we’re going to build a new restaurant in the city while it’s in place,'” Spady said.

The head tax, passed on Monday by the council, aims to fight homelessness by placing a five-year tax on nearly 600 businesses in Seattle that gross $20 million or more per year. While the original proposal would have collected $75 million annually, Monday’s new agreement took this amount down to $47 million per year. Spady was a vocal critic of the proposal while it was being debated.

“I guess it’s a compromise between the Seattle City Council members, but can it really be a compromise with the city if no one else was invited to the table?” Spady said.

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Although the media has largely focused on the tax’s impact on corporate giant Amazon, with Councilmember Kshama Sawant even calling the head tax an “Amazon tax,” Spady said that it is the 599 smaller businesses that will be most hurt by the tax.

“It’s not about Amazon at all,” he said. “This is about high-volume, low-margin businesses, like grocery stores.”

Businesses could come up with any number of trade-offs to make up for the loss of $275 per employee, per year. This could take the form of more expensive groceries, smaller and fewer donations to charities, or even layoffs, according to Spady.

He pointed to the solution proposed by his sister, Dick’s Drive-In Executive Vice President Jasmine Donovan, in her May 2 Seattle Times op-ed piece. In it, Donovan suggested that rather than a head tax, businesses be forced to donate that amount of money to a city-approved charity that directly works with the homeless.

That way, Spady said, businesses “don’t lose the money in a bureaucratic bog at city hall.”

Spady’s personal approach to the homeless crisis would include mental health and drug addiction services, emergency shelter, a system of providing people with jobs, and the arrests of homeless people who refuse to participate in these solutions.

“If you’re not interested in being a partner in the city’s growth, then you shouldn’t be here,” Spady said.

Spady said that it’s time for the people of Seattle to take their future into their own hands. He wants to see residents put forth a 2019 referendum on the head tax, or even on the council members.

“We as citizens can put forth an initiative, a referendum, and actually change the scope of this ourselves, because the solutions are in front of us,” he said.