Group of restaurant owners, retailers demand repeal of Cook County beverage tax

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CHICAGO --One day after Cook County's tax on sweetened beverages went into effect, a group of retailers, restaurants and chambers of commerce called for its swift repeal Thursday morning.

The group voiced its opposition in front of a Tony's Finer Foods supermarket in Niles and included the supermarket's district manager, representatives from the Rogers Park and Niles Chambers of Commerce, and the Illinois Food Retailers Association.

In a news release issued by the members of the group, they maintain "the impact of Cook County's beverage tax could be devastating, including an estimated 6,100 lost jobs, $321 million in lost wages and $1.3 billion in lost economic activity..."

A similar beverage tax went into effect in Philadelphia at the beginning of the year and beverage sales plummeted as much as 50 percent at some local grocery stores and local beverage distributors reported up to a 45 percent decline in sales, according to the news release.

In response to the group's demand, an aide to Board President Toni Preckwinkle issued a statement saying, "A year ago we were able to pass a modest tax on sweetened beverages that would provide needed revenue to protect critical jobs in public health and public safety. We believe the tax will also ultimately serve a public health benefit in such areas as reducing instances of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay."

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