The effects of Seattle’s soda tax are finally being realized — and business leaders are furious

The effects of Seattle’s soda tax are finally being realized — and business leaders are furious
Seattle business owners are fed up over the city's new sugary drink tax, which they say are driving their customers to competitors outside the city. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The absurdity of Seattle’s new sugary drink tax was exposed earlier this month when adjusted Costco price labels made headlines nationwide.

Thanks to the 1.75 cents per ounce tax, a 36-pack of soda at a Seattle Costco rose in price by 75 percent, while a 35-pack of gatorade raised by similar levels. While city leaders say the tax will benefit the city, business leaders and representatives say the tax will do nothing but hurt Seattle businesses, their employees and, in the long-term, the city itself.

What are leaders saying?

Jagajit Singh, who runs a pizzeria on the outskirts of Seattle, told KING-TV the tax puts her business at a severe disadvantage to businesses just down the street from her that are outside the city limits. Those businesses aren’t subject to the “soda tax.”

“Many of my customers are from outside the area and will simply choose to not come to my store,” Singh explained. “Stores just down the street are advertising for people to buy drinks there because they don’t have Seattle soda tax. Once our customers leave they may not come back.”

Peter Lam, a local union representative, said local business leaders’ fears are “being realized.”

“With the tax four weeks old, our fears are being realized. We call on the city council to address the needs of the community and workers and address this tax,” he explained.

Daniel Kim, the general manager of the Korean American Grocers Association — which has a heavy presence in Seattle — said he is hopeful Seattle leaders hear the concerns of local business owners.

“Many customers are frustrated and blaming the store owners. Our hope is that city leaders will listen and understand how unfair this tax is,” he said.

Meanwhile, Costco, which is headquartered in Washington State, has made its views about the sugary drink tax very clear. The wholesale store posted signs in their Seattle locations informing members they could purchase drinks that fall under the tax’s burden at its other locations outside the city.

The leaders expressed their concerns about the tax at an event on Friday organized by Keep Washington Livable for All, an anti-tax group, according to KING.

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