Here is a thought sparked because I saw a recurrence of an enduring
debate in a thread on the Pittsburgh City-Data Forum. The argument thrown out there a bit
superficially is that the "drink tax" in Allegheny County is responsible
for some reported closings of drinking establishments that have been in the
Remember, the 'drink tax' as the Allegheny County Alcoholic Beverage Tax is called.. was originally the
10% (since lowered to 7%) supplemental tax Allegheny County collected on
Alcoholic beverages. It was enacted at
the end of 2007 supposedly to aide the county in paying its share of funding
for transit. We will skip that whole
debate for the moment. The argument at
hand, as some clearly believe and purport, is that the tax is responsible for
drinking establishments shutting down in Allegheny County. Is that true?
Again, the plural of anecdote is not data and the passing
news article does not answer the question at all. It is honestly a big question, but if I wanted
to answer the question superficially I would start with some known data.
So the number of establishments classified as NAICS code
7224 (Drinking Establishments - Alcoholic Beverages) is known. Looking at Allegheny County the average
number of drinking establishments by quarter looks like this going back to
2005, which I picked as being before there was any mention of a drink tax
locally. I have also highlighted the
period 2008 forward which covers the
So yeah.. Look at that.
Sure looks like the drink tax put the big cruncher on local bars. Break out the pitchforks and let's storm the Gold Room!
Maybe before we do that it is worth looking at what has happened to the number
of drinking establishments in... say... Pennsylvania? Those establishments shutting down here must be moving elsewhere in the state? I get this:
Hmm... Must be that new
statewide drink tax is also having an impact.
I mean, there must be a new tax causing that decline right?
Maybe what begins to answer the question is what is the
share of drinking establishments in the state that have remained open here in Allegheny County. I
This all does make me wonder a bit what is happening in the local market for liquor licenses? One way or another the number of establishments is down a fair bit.