Attention Pittsburgh Party-Goers: Buy Your Drinks Before Midnight

December 31, 2007

Allegheny County, PA, the home of Pittsburgh, is set to ring in the new year tonight with a new tax on poured alcohol drinks. And a judge has ruled that the tax will go into effect at 12:01 a.m. (as scheduled) despite the fact that it may lead to administrative headaches for establishments. From

Allegheny County bars and restaurants will be ringing in more than the New Year at midnight.

They'll also be ringing up an extra 10 percent per drink they serve, when the county's new poured drink tax takes effect.

Some bars and restaurants sued last week hoping to delay the tax, but a county judge says it will begin as scheduled at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. The business owners had argued they aren't prepared to begin collecting the tax that soon.

This alcohol tax is supposed to fund Pittsburgh-area public transportation. Why tax alcohol to fund public transit? Who knows? It really has no justification in sound public finance policy. It has just been decided by politicians in the Pittsburgh area that they should tax a special product arbitrarily decided upon by the county board to fund some general program.

Maybe Allegheny County will impose a special tax on Terrible Towels next. Such a policy would make about as much sense as a special drinks tax. But if public health is the argument, then if I were Primanti Brothers, I would hold onto my wallets.

(Finally, how can you do this to Steeler fans who two weeks from now may need a lot to drink if/when they go into New England to face the Patriots?)

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