City Hall Watch: Supervisor jumps on wagon with alcohol fee 

Drinking a pint of beer could soon become more costly in San Francisco as The City looks to recoup the millions of dollars spent annually in dealing with the impacts of alcohol.

Supervisor John Avalos has proposed that The City impose an alcohol fee on wholesalers and manufacturers, such as brew pubs, distributing and selling alcohol in San Francisco.

On Tuesday, Avalos introduced legislation that would place a $0.076 “alcohol mitigation” fee on every ounce of ethanol sold in a drink, which works out to be $0.046 — just shy of a nickel — per standard drink, like a beer, according to the legislation.

The City spends more than $17 million in costs associated with alcohol use, according to a study conducted to make the determination that there’s a basis for the fee.

Costs include $4 million for the Fire Department’s emergency medical response, $1.8 million for San Francisco General Hospital’s services and more than $10 million in costs for treatment and prevention services run by the Department of Public Health.

“The purpose of the fee is to get cost recovery for services impacted by alcohol consumption,” Avalos said. “We have not funded adequately our treatment services, our substance abuse services in San Francisco.”

If approved, the first payment would be due Jan. 31 for those doing business during the quarter that ends Dec. 31. Payment would be collected and enforced by the Treasurer’s Office.

The fee could be passed onto retailers, who could pass them onto consumers.

“It’s an interesting policy debate,” Newsom spokesman Tony Winnicker said. He noted, however, that it would have an impact on hundreds of thousands of people and businesses.
New fees are becoming more common as The City faces budget deficits for at least the next three years. Last year, a 20-cent per pack cigarette-litter fee was implemented. A fee to pay for the cleanup of fast-food litter will be studied. 

The alcohol fee would require approval by at least six members of the Board of Supervisors to go into effect.

In other action

In a 10-0 vote, legislation increasing dog-license fees was approved, which includes a fee hike from $24 to $50 for a one-year license.

In a 7-3 vote, a nonresident fee for entry into Golden Gate Park’s Botanical Garden was given final approval. Supervisors Eric Mar, Ross Mirkarimi and Bevan Dufty opposed it.

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