How bar owners could 'ice' the 10 percent drink tax

Bars that charge "rocks" fees nowadays do so at their own risk, because nobody wants to pay for ice.

But might a bar manager be tempted to charge for ice if he thought it could save customers a few pennies in the process?

Here's how, at least in theory: Allegheny County and its chief executive, Dan Onorato, are contemplating a 10 percent drink tax, which would go toward funding the Port Authority. Restaurant and tavern owners worry that the tax would make the historically tight margins within the food service industry even tighter.

But what if you could cut the cost of the drink, and instead charge for ice, olives, the splash of cranberry juice or the slice of pineapple or lime that garnishes the drink? It sounds complex, but with cash registers being computerized these days, pressing the "mojito" button could spit out a receipt with separate charges for the rum, mint, lime and sugar.

Suppose that mojito costs $7. A 10 percent drink tax adds 70 cents to the total. But if you charged only $3 for the liquor, and $4 for the ice and extra ingredients, the drink tax burden would be just 30 cents. (Certain food items could then be subjected to a separate, but lower, sales tax rate.)

Joe D'Amico, owner of Franco's Trattoria in Dormont, said it was something he and other restaurant owners might consider, even if it sounds impractical.


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