San Francisco's Proposed Booze Tax Has Businesses Up in Arms

SAN FRANCISCO -- San Francisco city leaders are set to consider levying a fee on alcohol that would go to cover some of the costs linked to drinking too much.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote Tuesday on imposing the fee on wholesalers and distributors that would add about 3 cents to a 12-ounce bottle of beer, 4.5 cents to a 6-ounce glass of wine and 3.5 cents to a standard drink with 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol.

The proposed fee would pull in about $16 million a year, according to the city's controller's office.

The money would be used to help cover expenses the taxpayers end up paying for emergency room visits that go unpaid, prevention programs, a sobering center and ambulance transports.

The fee is supported by San Francisco's public health director, Dr. Michael Katz, and San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos, the chief backer of the legislation.

"As an elected official, I am constantly asked to do more to help those who have fallen prey to alcohol abuse. This fee will enable the city to continue the work to make our sidewalks safer and provide hope and dignity for people struggling in the streets and alleys," Avalos said.

The alcohol and hospitality industries are against the fee, arguing that it would hurt business and kill jobs, a sentiment echoed by Supervisor Bevan Dufty.

"I just think that in this difficult economic time, adding on a new fee is not the right thing to do," said Dufty.

And if it does pass, Mayor Gavin Newsom has promised to veto the legislation.