White Center restaurant ramps up soda tax fight

WHITE CENTER, Wash. — The soda fountains are always busy at Bosses Drive-in in White Center.  Owner Ryan Hopkins tells us the sweet drinks amount to 20 to 25 percent of his business.

So that's why his reader board had been turned into a protest against Mayor Murray's plan for a tax for a 2 penny per ounce tax on sugary drinks at the wholesale level.

“Hey Mr Mayor $5 Sodas? Ur Pop Tax Sucks!” the sign says.

“If I'm going to keep the same margins on the soda, yeah, my $2.50 jumbo soda is now going to be over $5 with tax,” Hopkins said.

Customer Lorna Florentino is skeptical about the tax.

“I think it's silly, because we are always taxed everywhere,” she said shortly after ordering a hamburger.

One of the few cities to have such a tax is Philadelphia, where the soda industry says it is leading to layoffs.

“I've had to lay off 30 positions simply because business is down as much as it is in the city of Philadelphia,” said soft drink bottler Bob Rockley.

But in Seattle, Mayor Murray sees it as way of raising money to eliminate racial disparities in education.

“This is the right way for Seattle to do the same and fund programs important to the health and success of so many of our underserved students of color,” he said during his State of the City speech last month.

But at Bosses Drive-in, they don't think they are being treated fairly either.

“What about the Starbucks candy-bar-in-the-cup drinks that they sell down the street?” Hopkins said. “What about Halloween candy, what about donuts, what about birthday cake?

Lorna Florentino is a retired nurse, who does see the possible health benefits.

“Too much sugar, ends up having you get sick, diabetes. Same with too much taxes, not good also, people suffer too."

The Seattle City Council will have to vote to approve the soda tax.

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