Drink Tax Slated for Repeal

Florida restaurants are claiming victory over the repeal of a little noticed tax on alcoholic beverages. The repeal isn’t a done deal yet. And even if it becomes law, you may never see the benefits.

In 1990, state lawmakers passed a tax on every beer, wine or hard liquor drink sold in Florida restaurants. Some include it in the price of the beverage. Others show it as an alcohol surcharge on your bill.

The tax has been cut two times before, and now the final repeal is awaiting Governor Jeb Bush’s signature. Restaurant manager Matt Lippman says it will be a great day for consumers. “I just think it’s an added expense which, unfortunately, gets passed on to the consumer.”

The restaurant association has hated the tax which was enacted in the middle of the night. This year the repeal passed, but lawmakers kept it on the books another for year because they needed the $40 million it produces.

Steve Metz represents the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association. “I am told, Mike, that their economic development package that they passed the last day ended up costing a little bit more than they thought.”

For those restaurants that include the tax on the check, you’ll know right away if you’re getting the tax break. But for those restaurants that just include it in the price of a drink, you may never know if you’re getting the break.

Activist Karen Woodall says the $40 million the state will lose could hurt real people with real needs. “I don’t see that it’s hurting the industry. I’m not aware of people not buying alcoholic beverages because of this tax.”

So if the governor agrees, the tax will now go away in 2007, unless lawmakers make another last minute decision to keep it on the books to help balance the budget.

The tax was once ten cents on a hard liquor drink and glass of wine and four cents on a glass of beer. With cuts made since 1999, it is just one third of what it used to be.