By Lloyd Madden,
While African-American community leaders have been at the forefront of opposition to the so-called “soda tax,” it is becoming clear as Election Day draws near that the No on Measure N campaign is a big tent.
A walk down 23rd Street and interviews with the small business owners who make up the 23rd Street Merchants Association make that plain as day.
These markets, shops and restaurants catering to a Latino clientele oppose the Measure N license tax on businesses trading sugar-sweetened beverages because they see it as the proverbial last straw that threatens their livelihoods.
“We are struggling now because of the low economy,” said Alex Essa, the owner and operator of Mi Tierra grocery on 23rd.
“If Measure N passes, I am going to have no choice but to pass the tax along in higher prices, and I think a lot of my customers are going to think about shopping elsewhere.”
It is a legitimate fear, according to the findings of the Berkeley Research Group, which analyzed the potential economic consequences of Measure N. The analysis, which was shared with the Richmond Post by the No on Measure N campaign, predicted $9.9 million in lost sales annually for Richmond businesses covered by the tax, assuming it is passed along to consumers in the form of higher prices.
Of course, nobody knows for sure what the impact might be but any downturn is unwelcome. It is why the 23rd Street Merchants Association and Richmond Chamber of Commerce also were early endorsers of No on N, the Community Coalition Against Beverage Taxes.
Cesar Segura, owner and operators of La Selva Taqueria, says Measure N will be a nightmare for restaurants and other food vendors selling Latino fare.
“Measure N would force me to keep track of sales and pay one penny per ounce of on virtually every nonalcoholic beverage I sell,” Segura said.
“It’s a lot more than soda,” he added, noting that homemade concoctions like horchata and agua fresca are among the most popular beverages at La Selva. “I wish our city officials had given a little more thought to what they were doing.”
Lloyd Madden is president of the Black American Political Action Committee (BAPAC).