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Business Owners, Alderman Oppose Proposed Alcohol Tax Hike

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Stop picking on the liquor industry – that was the message Sunday afternoon at a popular Chicago watering hole.

As CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov reports, a local alderman joined a group of business owners and others opposed to a proposed Cook County alcohol tax hike.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle has proposed hiking taxes on beer, wine and liquor to help fill a $315 million dollar budget hole.

But opponents argue if those taxes go up again, the county will lose out in the long run.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports


Bobby McGuire, the owner of Butch McGuire’s Pub on the Near North Side, said an alcohol tax hike will hurt an already struggling restaurant and bar industry.

Other opponents said it could kill Chicago’s tourism and convention business, by forcing people to go elsewhere.

Opponents were urging Preckwinkle to find another way to get the $11 million in revenue an alcohol tax hike would create, but Preckwinkle’s office said the county’s alcohol tax hasn’t been hiked in more than 20 years.

However, Alderman Brendan Reilly (42nd), whose ward includes scores of bars and restaurants in the downtown area, called the tax hike a bad idea.

“I respect the work the Cook County board has to do and that they have a tough budget to balance as well, but I’d ask that they would look for another revenue source, other than this one that could hurt the downtown economy,” Reilly said.

John O’Hara with the Illinois Policy Institute said he’s against an increase of any amount. He said Chicago is already paying among the highest entertainment taxes in the country.

“Fifty-six percent of the cost of that is already going to the government and it’s not going to the establishment that sells it to you, employs people and creates jobs,” he said.

Business men and women gathered at longtime pub, Butch Maguire’s on Division Street, ahead of the Bears game as fans were positioning themselves in front of the big screens.

“We will have to figure out, if this law passes as it’s written, if we want to stay in business or if we want to move out of the county,” said Chuck Levi, president of Iwan Ries & Co. tobacco company.

Other opponents said Preckwinkle should work harder to cut spending, instead of raising any county taxes.

Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey (D-12th) has another idea. He is proposing decriminalizing small marijuana possession cases in Chicago, which he said will save the county far more money in the long run.

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