News

New chip-card rules expected to reduce ATMs in retail spots 

Monday, July 11, 2016 11:14:00 AM

Chicago Tribune

6 Jul 2016

By Olga Kharif and Brooke Fox

That ATM in the dark corner of the bar could be on its way out.

By October of this year, ATM owners in the United States have to replace or upgrade their machines to accept chip cards or face liability for certain types of fraud. But the upgrade and related ongoing maintenance are so expensive that cash machine operators like Abe Ayesh, who helps manage about 8,000 ATMs mostly on the East Coast, plans to shut down some of them.

“Do I want to go spend $3,000 right now for a new machine that’s going to take me three to four years to get my money?” said Ayesh, chief operating officer of FAM ATM. “It’s not worth it.”

Costs to upgrade an ATM’s hardware and software range from $300 to $3,000. About 410,000 ATMs have to be upgraded, according to researcher Aite Group. Owners have to clean the new chip-card reader every couple of weeks — and that cleaning kit costs another $1.50 a pop.

Up to 10 percent of retail ATMs — those not owned by banks — may be thrown out, said James Phillips, a vice president at retail ATM maker Triton Systems of Delaware. Other old machines may stay operational but not be upgraded — and eventually stop working, he said.

“There are many ATMs out there that simply cannot be upgraded,” Phillips said. “They end up in landfills. It could have an impact for some cardholders in rural areas where there’s only one to two ATMs that they have access to.”

On Oct. 1, ATMs that don’t move to accept the chip technology will become liable for any counterfeit fraud perpetrated on the machines using MasterCards. In October 2017, Visa will start enforcing a similar rule.

Only about 20 percent of U.S. ATMs have been adapted to accept the chip cards, according to MasterCard estimates.

U.S. merchants have been changing their point-of-sale equipment to use chip cards — a process that’s been bumpy. Gas stations’ switch-over is also coming up.

The technology is designed to cut down on use of counterfeit cards and skimming, a practice where crooks modify an ATM to collect customers’ PIN codes and card numbers.

Last year, ATM compromises in the U.S. jumped sixfold, according to FICO Card Alert Service, as the move by merchants to accept chip cards left many criminals looking for a new target. Criminal activity was highest at nonbank ATMs, such as those in convenience stores, hotels and bars, where 10 times as many machines were compromised as in 2014, FICO said.

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MasterCard, Visa Settlement Rejected 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016 12:47:00 PM

U.S. court overturns 2012 class-action decision regarding interchange fees

Angel Abcede

June 30, 2016

NEW YORK -- In a decision that could lead to more litigation against the nation’s largest credit-card companies, a federal court of appeals overturned the class-action settlement involving retailers who sued Visa and MasterCard over high interchange fees.

As reporteb in a McLane/CSP Daily News Flash, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York overturned the class-action settlement in the case titled, “In Re Payment Card Interchange Fee and Merchant Discount Antitrust Litigation.” That case led to a proposed settlement valued at $7.25 billion in 2012. Yesterday’s ruling called the settlement “unreasonable and inadequate.”

Though the settlement was the largest in U.S. history in 2012, Alexandria, Va.-based NACS led efforts to oppose it because officials said the relief it offered was inadequate and the statements absolving the credit-card companies were overly broad.

In a press release, NACS officials said the association both opted out and objected to the proposed settlement because it offered class members money damages of only about two months’ worth of interchange fees and, among other things, limited modifications to Visa’s and MasterCard’s surcharging rules. The proposed settlement also required class members to release Foster City, Calif.-based Visa and Purchase, N.Y.-based MasterCard from liability for any anticompetitive rules currently in place, including the interchange or swipe-fee rules, and any “substantially similar rules” instituted at any time in the future.

In addition to NACS, the majority of named plaintiffs and approximately 1,200 additional merchants and retailer groups filed papers objecting to preliminary approval of the proposed settlement, according to the release.

A spokesperson for Visa said they still are reviewing the verdict and declined to comment. MasterCard officials did not respond by press time.

The convenience-store industry pays $10 billion annually in credit-card fees, according to the NACS State of the Industry Report of 2015 Data.

“We are pleased that the Second Circuit Court of Appeals has thoughtfully addressed the problems we have long identified with this proposed settlement,” said Henry Armour, president and CEO of NACS. “We will work to help ensure that this moves forward in a way that recognizes the best interests of merchants and the consumers they serve.”

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BYOB AND CORKAGE FEES 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016 12:40:00 PM

Just a heads up while you're out enjoying the summer and visiting BYOB establishments... the City of Chicago does not regulate the practice of BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) in any restaurant or commercial business, except for sidewalk cafes.

 

BYOB at BYOB establishments means just that, a customer could purchase their own alcohol, bring it in to the business, serve themselves, keep the alcohol in their possession and leave the business with the empty alcohol container.  The business is allowed to provide a glass and ice for customers.

 

Businesses can charge a corkage fee. It is permitted and is not, by itself, a violation for selling alcohol without a license.  But, a business that allows BYOB should be careful to not charge the customer any direct fees for allowing BYOB on the premises. Fees tied directly to alcohol service might be considered selling alcohol without a license.   

 

By the way, the City of Chicago does advise businesses that choose to allow BYOB on their premises, to take steps to ensure that the consumption of alcohol is conducted in a safe and legal manner. 

 

If you want to read up on Liquor Licensing in the City of Chicago visit the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection's (BACP) website.

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MINIMUM WAGE EMPLOYEES ARE GETTING A RAISE 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016 12:36:00 PM

City of Chicago Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage Ordinance

On December 2nd, 2014, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance that will raise the minimum wage for Chicago workers to $13 per hour by 2019. This measure, sponsored by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Alderman Will Burns, Alderman Pat O’Connor, and 31 other aldermen, will increase the earnings for approximately 410,000 Chicago workers, inject $860 million into the local economy, and lift 70,000 workers out of poverty.

In 2015, the City will begin phasing in its new minimum wage, as provided by the ordinance. This phase-in will help simplify the early years of implementation for businesses and employers. The City's ordinance raises the hourly minimum wage to $10 in 2015, $10.50 in 2016, $11 in 2017, $12 in 2018, and $13 in 2019, indexed annually to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) after 2019.

The ordinance also increases the minimum wage for tipped employees in from the current state minimum of $4.95 to $5.45 in 2015 and $5.95 in 2016, indexed annually to the CPI after 2016.

The full text of Minimum Wage ordinance is available HERE.

Implementation Timeline*

Effective DateNon-Tipped EmployeesTipped Employees
Current $8.25 $4.95
July 1, 2015 $10.00 $5.45
July 1, 2016 $10.50 $5.95
July 1, 2017 $11.00 Increases with CPI*
July 1, 2018 $12.00 Increases with CPI*
July 1, 2019 $13.00 Increases with CPI*
July 1, 2020 Increases with CPI* Increases with CPI*

* The ordinance provides that the minimum wage will not increase when the unemployment rate in Chicago for the preceding year, as calculated by the Illinois Department of Employment Security, was equal to or greater than 8.5 percent. The ordinance also provides that if the CPI increases by more than 2.5 percent in any year, the minimum wage increase shall be capped at 2.5 percent.

To Whom Does the Minimum Wage Ordinance Apply?

  • Employers: Employers that maintain a business facility within the City of Chicago and/or are required to obtain a business license to operate in the City are subject to the minimum wage ordinance.
  • Employees: Employees who work two hours in the City within the period of two weeks qualify for the minimum wage required by the ordinance. This includes domestic employees and home health care workers. A union may waive its members' rights to collect the minimum wage as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Time spent traveling in the City that is compensated time, including, but not limited to, deliveries, sales calls, and travel related to other business activity taking place within the City, counts toward hours worked; time spent traveling in the City that is uncompensated commuting time does not.

To Whom Does the Minimum Wage Ordinance NOT Apply?

  • Employees taking part in government-subsidized temporary youth employment programs.
  • Employees taking part in government-subsidized transitional employment programs.
  • Employees of any governmental entity other than the City.
  • Certain employees exempted under state law, including:
          1. Employees under 18 years of age. Employers are authorized to pay these employees a wage 50 cents below the state minimum hourly wage.
          2. Adult employees (i.e. those 18 years of age or older) in the first 90 days of employment. Employers are authorized to pay these employees a wage 50 cents below the state minimum hourly wage.
          3. Disabled employees, pending state approval.Trainees taking part in a program for no more than six months, pending state approval.
          4. Employees working at a business with four or fewer employees, not counting the employer’s parents, spouse, children or other members of the employer’s immediate family.

Other Employer Requirements

  • Employers that pay a covered tipped employee must make available at the request of the Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection substantial evidence that establishes: (i) the amount the employee received in gratuities during the relevant pay period and (ii) that no part of that amount was returned to the employer. If an employer is required by the state minimum wage law to provide substantially similar data to the Illinois Department of Labor, the Commissioner may allow the employer to comply with this requirement by filing a copy of the state documentation.
  • Employers with a business facility in the City at which a covered employee works must post notice at the facility of: (i) the City minimum wage and (ii) the employee’s rights under the ordinance. The Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection will prepare a form notice and make it available online to employers. Employers that do not maintain a business facility within the geographic boundaries of the City and households that serve as the worksite for domestic workers and home healthcare workers are exempt from this requirement.
  • Employers must provide with the first paycheck issued to any covered employee a form notice advising the employee of: (i) the City minimum wage and (ii) the employee’s rights under the ordinance. The Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection will prepare a form notice and make it available online to employers.
  • Employers may not discriminate or take any adverse action against any covered employee in retaliation for exercising any right covered under the ordinance.
  • Employers that violate the Minimum Wage ordinance will be fined $500 to $1,000 for each offense. Each day that a violation continues constitutes a separate and distinct offense to which a separate fine shall apply.
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Cannabis cocktail trend gathers pace 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016 12:32:00 PM

Source: the drinks business

by Lauren Eads

8th June, 2016

 

A US restaurant has launched a trio of cocktails laced with cannabis, highlighting a growing trend within the alcoholic drinks industry.

 

Jason Eisner's Sour T-iesel - a twist on a Tequila sour laced with CBD - an oil extracted from the Marijuana plant.

 

Crafted by Jason Eisner, head bartender at West Hollywood's Gracias Madre, the cannabis-infused cocktails contain CBD - an anti-anxiety property found in marijuana.

 

CBD, which can be bought in health food shops, is an oil that can be extracted from any part of the plant and is credited with helping to ease anxiety, minimise seizures and calm people experiencing psychotic episodes.

 

It is different from THC, which is extracted from the marijuana flower or 'bud' and stimulates a psychoactive effect. This compound requires a medical marijuana card to purchase legally.

 

Prior to Gracias Madre, Eisner worked with Los Angeles bartender Jaymee Mandeville at Drago Centro LA and held managerial positions at New York bars including Bubby's in Tribeca, Jerry's in Chelsea, and the Film Center Café in Hell's Kitchen.

 

His collection of $20 cannabis cocktails include the Stony Negroni, which is comprised of gin, Vermouth, Amaro Contratto Aperitivo (similar to Campari), a spoonful of port and a dash of CBD.

 

Sour T-iesel meanwhile is a twist on a Tequila sour, comprising Tequila, lime agave nectar, mint, sage leaves, Aquafaba (vegan equivalent of egg white), a dash of CBD and Matcha green tea powder dusted in the shape of a cannabis leaf.

 

Completing the line-up is the Rolled Fashioned, made with Bourbon, Mezcal Anejo, cinnamon, sarsaparilla syrup, Peruvian tree bark, vanilla bean, star anise and a dash of CBD. It's served with a vegan churro.

 

"This is culinary use, not recreational use or medical use. It's different and I think we'll be seeing a lot more of this in the future," said Eisner speaking to the Daily Mail. "For centuries, cannabis properties have been used for its healing qualities, but the weed has also been lumped in with cocaine and other hard drugs as something bad and psychotic.

 

"Now I think we're at a place in history where we can become educated about different parts of the plant, outside of what we've grown up with."

 

the drinks business reported on predictions of a cannabis cocktail trend earlier this year, which appears to be gathering pace.

 

Legal marihuana sales accounted for roughly US$7 billion in 2016, according to anecdotal initial estimates highlighted by Euromonitor's Spiros Malandrakis in recent analysis for the drinks business on the pros and cons of cannabis-laced alcoholic drinks.

 

"With conservative projections estimating a near fourfold increase in legal cannabis sales in the medium term, there is no question that the industry - still in its infancy - will soon become a much greater disruptor than the once ignored craft segment ever was," said Malandrakis.

 

Malandrakis cited Humboldt's Finest cannabis vodka from Redwood Spirits as an example - a spirit made with food-grade hemp from Oregon and currently only on sale in California and Colorado.

 

Earlier this year Colorado-based brewer Dude's Brews, announced its Canna-Beer series, which will feature a range of "CBD-rich, cannabis-infused" beers.

 

It came following the drug's legalisation in the state of Colorado in January.

 

More than two dozen US states have already decriminalised medical or recreational use of cannabis with that number expected to only rise further.

 

"It will begin with micro-brewers/ distillers and hemp," predicts Malandrakis. "The former will find it easier to experiment than sclerotic multinationals. The latter - naturally free from the controversial psychoactive components of marijuana - will provide an initial, flavourful embrace of the trend without risking legal repercussions."

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Chicago Restaurants Can Now Charge You A BYOB Fee 

Friday, June 17, 2016 4:51:00 PM

by Anthony Todd in Food on Jun 7, 2016 10:19 amChicago Restaurants Can Now Charge You A BYOB Fee
 

If a city commission changes a rule but doesn't actually tell anyone, did the rule change? That's the odd conundrum that WBEZ ran into over the course of the last week. They discovered that the city's stated policy on charging fees for bringing your own alcohol to restaurants wasn't actually the law—it was the result of an administrative mistake. Now, it's possible that your favorite restaurants might start charging you to bring in booze.

Here's the backstory: last week, Curious City did a report on why Chicago has so many BYOB restaurants. In creating that report, they looked at all the city documentation on BYOB restaurants, and that documentation had one thing in common: It said that city policy dictated that if a restaurant didn't have a liquor license, it couldn't charge a "corkage fee," or a fee to bring your own alcohol.

This rule makes some kind of sense. If a restaurant is serving high-profit-margin alcohol, the only way it will offset the loss from someone bringing in their own alcohol is to charge them a fee. If it doesn't serve alcohol, the restaurant is not really "losing" anything when someone brings their own bottle, though you do have to incur some costs to provide glasses and service.

Except, it turns out that this hasn't been the law since 2008. That's when the commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection apparently changed this rule, to allow restaurants to charge corkage fees. But no one ever updated any of the documentation that the city put out publicly, so as far as anyone knew, the rule didn't change. As of May, 2016, the old rule was still being published. At least until the department contacted WBEZ.

Even better, WBEZ found restaurants that got in trouble for charging a corkage fee, which was legal, except no one knew it was legal. What a mess!

Will this mean that diners will have to start paying a fee to BYOB? It'll depend on the restaurant. Some may decide that they can squeeze a little extra money out of diners, and even with the fee, it'll probably still be cheaper to bring your own. Others won't want to rock the boat. Especially because, now that this has become public, who knows if the rule is about to change again. Here's hoping that the city tells someone this time.

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Police officers, bar owners learn of new law 

Friday, June 17, 2016 4:49:00 PM

 

Spotting fake IDs, overconsumption discussed at Wildey

Posted: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 11:18 am

Police officers, bar owners learn of new law By STEVE HORRELL shorrell@edwpub.net The Edwardsville Intelligencer | 0 comments

The crowd filled nearly every available seat at the Wildey Theatre Wednesday morning, but it was a bit different than the typical Wildey crowd.

“It’s unusual that you have the licensed beverage people and the liquor commission working together on something,” noted Edwardsville Police Chief Jay Keeven who was on hand for the informational/training meeting.

The idea was to share information about new state laws that take effect July 1. 

“The two overriding things we’re discussing are how to check IDs and spot fake IDs, and how to stop overconsumption,” said Ted Penesis, during a break in his presentations. Penesis is the Industry Education Manager for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. 

Other police officers from Edwardsville and Glen Carbon were on hand to hear the message as well.

But the message was aimed primarily at bar and tavern owners and to any of their employees who might be serving alcohol to the public. Also on hand were members of the Illinois Licensed Beverage Association, a venerable trade group that lobbies statewide elected officials, state lawmakers, and the Illinois Liquor Control Commission. 

The ILBA, according to its website, represents taverns, restaurants, fraternal clubs, package stores, bowling centers, golf courses, hotels, gas stations, convenience stores and grocery stores.

“They see the value in training and keeping their membership out of trouble,” Keeven said of the ILBA’s presence at the Wildey. 

The new law requires those who serve alcohol where it is consumed to pass a basic test for what is known as BASSET certification. 

The new law took effect July 1, 2015 in Cook County. This year it takes effect on July 1 for counties with more than 200,000 people, which includes Madison and St. Clair counties. Next year it applies to counties with populations from 30,000 to 200,000. “Then, in 2018, it will be the little tiny counties,” Penesis added. 

After Wednesday’s presentation, Penesis was scheduled to hit the road for a presentation Thursday in Urbana. After that, it was on to Winnebago County for a Monday presentation. 

Keeven said a couple of his officers have already taken the certification training, 

The On-Premise Alcohol Certification Course can be taken online for about $15, he said. 

On Wednesday, Penesis also discussed penalties to servers who are caught selling alcohol to underage patrons and changes in the “happy hour” law, which went into effect on July 15, 2015.

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"Better Late Than Never"-- Judge in Illinois Dismisses 201 Sales Tax Cases against Retailers 

Friday, June 17, 2016 4:45:00 PM

Is This the End of the Road for Steve Diamond's One-Man Crusade to Become Wealthy from Suing the Wine Industry?

 Source: Hinman & Carmichael LLP

By John W. Edwards II and John Hinman

June 2, 2016

 We have been reviewing the progress of the Illinois "Whistle-Blower" sales tax on shipping fees cases for well over a year while the cases have been pending [Illinois Qui Tam Lawsuits - Private Enforcement of a State Claim: A Bonanza for a Plaintiff's Lawyer & a Rip-Off of Retailers; IL Attorney General's Office Announces Intention to Dismiss False Claims Act Against Liquor Retailers; IL Finally Offers Certainty & Relief for Victims of Sales Tax Lawsuits, but Prompt Action is Required in Pending Cases; Relief at Last! IL Moves to Fix the Sales Tax Lawsuits Against Out-Of-State Sellers But Proposes to Penalize Wineries & Retailers That Ship Without Permits].

 We are now pleased to report that the end of the line for the plaintiff appears to be getting closer.  The plaintiff Chicago law firm headed up by Steve Diamond had most of his cases against retailers dismissed last week. Diamond has been enriching himself for ten years through "settlements" with out-of-state producers and retailers (in recent years involving many producers and retailers of alcoholic beverages) by claiming a failure to pay sales taxes on shipping and handling charges paid by Illinois residents who purchase wine from out of state retailers and wineries for shipment to their homes, and then suing the producers and retailers on behalf of the state.   His scheme, at least as it involves retailers and producers without Illinois permits or licenses, may finally be ending.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan moved to dismiss 201 cases against out-of-state retailers in the trial court of Cook County.  The cases included many that were still "sealed," meaning that the State had not decided whether to intervene.  The Attorney General had previously moved to dismiss 350 other cases filed by Diamond.  The Attorney General's motion to dismiss these 201 cases asserted that that they were "unlikely to be viable.because the relator's [Diamond's] complaints contained no allegations that the defendants had any presence in Illinois that could establish tax liability." What this means is that without a state license or a state direct shipping permit (which establishes an agreement to submit to the jurisdiction of the state), or affirmative acts of marketing to Illinois residents, the seller was not doing business in Illinois and therefore could not be sued in Illinois. The motion was granted by the trial court on May 23, 2016.

Diamond opposed the Attorney General's motion.  The Court ruled, however, that Illinois law provides discretion to the Attorney General to dismiss qui tam (Latin for "whistle blower") cases brought on behalf of the State. The court said that the decision to dismiss can be overruled only upon a showing of "glaring bad faith" by the Attorney General.  Left unsaid, of course, was what the result should be when it is shown that Diamond has acted with "glaring bad faith."

Diamond can appeal the trial court's decision.  However, given the uniquely high standard of proof that Diamond must meet ("glaring bad faith" by the Attorney General), the prospects for a successful appeal appear bleak.  That is very good news for those that have been brought kicking and screaming into the Illinois courts by Diamond - their ordeal may finally be coming to an end!

Looking inside the decision of this court, however, we see the application of a principle that may protect retailers who are legally prohibited from obtaining direct shipping permits from states such as Illinois, as well as the wineries that ship wine purchased by their winery visitors to the buyers home without direct shipping permits (which is the case with many very small wineries throughout the US).  That is, if the seller doesn't (or is not permitted to) register with the state, and the seller requires the purchaser to be the party legally sending the wine to the address desired by the purchaser, then the receiving state doesn't have an adequate "nexus" (connection) with the out of state seller to assert liability for taxes. This also presumptively applies to other forms of liability (such as criminal or civil liability against the seller for assisting the state resident buyer's violation of the relevant direct shipping protocol).  This would certainly validate the common seller (retailers and wineries alike) practice of paying sales taxes on sales in their home state and putting the onus on the buyer to be responsible for taxes in the state of the buyer. This makes the common invoice admonition "title passes to the buyer at the winery (or the store)" a potentially very powerful legal protection.

However, this compounds the uncertainly that is currently playing out in states such as New York over initiatives to hold retailers (such as Empire wine in Albany) responsible for violating the laws of other states by permitting (or assisting) customers buying in New York to ship to themselves in other states. Did the Illinois court really find that Illinois has no jurisdiction over New York (or California, or other states) retailers or producers with customers from Illinois if the goods are actually imported by the buyer as a technical contractual matter? A strong argument can be made that this is exactly what happened on May 23rd (which, if true, may soon be known as direct shipping freedom day in Illinois).

The stakes continue to rise across the US as retailers, international producers and small wineries without direct shipping permits continue to accommodate consumer demand for their products by allowing consumers to ship wine to themselves regardless of where they live. Stay tuned because this Illinois battle is not yet over.  There is too much money in it for Diamond who, rumor has it, is very well connected politically in the Illinois capital.

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Illinois politicians reintroduce penny-per-ounce ‘sugary drink’ tax 

Thursday, June 09, 2016 1:33:00 PM

State lawmakers propose regressive tax on sugary drinks to help fill budget holes created by decades of irresponsible policies.

Some lawmakers in Springfield think they may have found a sweet solution to Illinois’ budget gridlock: taxing sugary beverages.

Instead of drafting proposals to reform the state’s broken workers’ compensation system or freeze its record-high property taxes, a group of lawmakers is suggesting taxing sugary beverages at a penny-per-ounce price as part of a new budget proposal. Revenue estimates for the tax range between $375 million and $600 million per year.

If this sounds like a familiar plan, it’s because it’s a recycled – and failed – plan from 2014.

Lawmakers in 2014 used the narrative of promoting public health to defend their revenue grab.

“Numerous studies have linked excessive consumption of sugary soft drinks to obesity,” state Sen. Mattie Hunter, D-Chicago, said, according to a report by Lee Enterprises newspapers in 2014. “We as a state need to do a better job of educating the public and children in particular about this issue and the health risks.”

Springfield politicians have not learned much since then, proposing the same bad ideas with the same flawed logic.

Not only would this money grab fail to cure the state’s budgetary ills, it would not address public health concerns and would instead hurt struggling Illinoisans.

A 2013 Gallup poll found that 45 percent of people with incomes less than $30,000 drink regular (i.e., sugar-sweetened) soda, while one-third of those with incomes from $30,000-$74,999 drink regular soda, and just one-fifth of those with incomes higher than $75,000 drink it. The same poll showed that nearly twice as many nonwhite people drink regular soda as white people.

The tax is inherently regressive, much like other sin taxes politicians have gravitated toward to raise more revenue. The city of Chicago has seen firsthand the unintended consequences of sin taxes, as the Chicago City Council’s continued insistence on increasing tobacco taxes has led to a dangerous black market in the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods.

But that hasn’t changed thinking in Chicago either, as the city passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan to increase its highest-in-the-nation tobacco taxes again March 16. And just last year, Chicago, like Springfield, took a page from the playbook of New York City’s former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, whose soda regulations were ultimately overturned by the courts, when Alderman George Cardenas, 12th Ward, proposed what would have been Chicago’s third city-level tax on the sale of soft drinks, under the guise of promoting public health.

This idea of taxing citizens to promote better health is nothing more than a pretense to shovel money into the financial holes created by decades of bad public policy decisions. Politicians cannot tax Illinois’ way to better health habits and better budgets. But there is plenty Springfield can do right now to address the latter.

Lawmakers right now could pass legislation reforming Illinois’ uncompetitive workers’ compensation system. They could also work to pass a property-tax freeze in the Senate, and expand property-tax relief for Illinoisans across the state.

Structural reforms could ensure the state does not end up in fiscal crisis again down the road. Taxing sugary beverages won’t fix decades of financial recklessness, and this regressive proposal shows how averse many in Springfield are to changing the way the state operates.

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ICYMI: Denver Beer Bar Drops Craft Brewer's Brands; Cites Brewer's Push Into Retail 

Thursday, June 09, 2016 1:25:00 PM

 

Here’s an article about a prominent beer bar in Denver that has stopped carrying a craft brewer’s brands in part because of the craft brewer moving into the retail market as an on-premise competitor.


Falling Rock Owner's Angry Open Letter

 

Dear Client:

 

Since when did it become evil for craft brewers to be successful and grow? Even without a takeover from big brewers? Apparently that time is now.

 

A nearly two-decade relationship between two of Colorado's most prominent beer businesses is coming to an end. Chris Black, the owner of Denver's foremost beer bar Falling Rock, is apparently incensed by Oskar Blues Brewery's recent moves and has decided to part ways with the brewer, pulling their offerings from his tap lines.

 

Chris let his feelings be known on Facebook in an open letter to Oskar Blues that read, well, like a breakup letter.

 

If you've ever been on the brink of splitting up with a significant other you've undoubtedly had your boyfriend/girlfriend try to abruptly end things with that one word jab: "Bye." But you know that's not the end: often the phone rings again and your soon-to-be ex-partner rejoins with an "actually, you know what" and lists the reasons for their contempt.  

 

That's pretty much how this open letter goes.

 

Chris begins the letter with: "Bye." But he's compelled to explain his reasoning for the split.

 

He, like many, is still trying to figure out how the "differing methods of financing" in the beer landscape affect a brewery's craft status. He's sure one's craft card is revoked after selling to the "Industrobrewers," but for the other strategies [i.e., private equity], he thinks it's best "to play a wait-and-see game."

 

Evidently he's played the wait-and-see game long enough with Oskar Blues, and claims their "recent actions point towards a brewery" that "ISN'T craft"; so he wants "nothing to do with" them.

 

What are these actions Chris speaks of?

 

Well, Chris has a major issue with Oskar Blues' presence, or lack thereof, in state brewers guilds. He said their departure from the Colorado Brewers Guild left "a large hole" in the Guild's budget and finds it frustrating that they seemingly have no intention to join the North Carolina Brewers Guild or the Texas Brewers Guild and presumes it will be the same story in Florida.

 

"Yes, I know that not every brewery belongs to the Local and National Trade Organizations, just the ones that care about progressing the industry, want to protect it from the Industrobrewers, & want to be able to protect the small brewer's access to market," said Chris.

 

The other move grinding Chris's gears is Oskar Blues' recent announcement of a "Music Venue/Beer Hall in Downtown Denver." Indeed, Oskar Blues Fooderies announced last week its third project in 2016, a joint restaurant and music venue in the historic Market Center, serving "burgers, beer and live music."

 

The most infuriating part of this new endeavor for Chris is apparently the fact that it will hold 43 taps. "When you want to sell your own products, I am a huge supporter, when your primary goal is to sell other people's beers, I'm not so much in favor," Chris said. "That's kinda the job for the accounts out in the marketplace."

 

Chris noted that he has "LOTS of choices" when it comes to putting brands on tap at Falling Rock and he said he selects the ones "brewed by brewers that don't actively & directly compete with me." It may be "legal" for Oskar Blues to carry competitor's beers, but it "doesn't make it right," Chris said.

 

Staying true to the breakup format, Chris concludes the letter with a snide wish-you-well remark: "Have a terrific life driving your warehouse full of exotic cars." And a what-was-I-thinking comment, "I was your first account outside of your immediate area of Lyons. I've been a loyal supporter & account ever since. I feel like such a sucker."

 

OSKAR BLUES RESPONDS. Westword reached out to Oskar Blues spokesman Chad Melis for comment on Chris's "open letter." Oskar Blues is appreciative of Falling Rock's work with the brand, as Chad credited Chris as "an early adopter for Oskar Blues, and we want to thank him for playing the role that he did."

 

Still, they took issue with some of the comments expressed in the letter. Some of them seem flat out wrong: Chad said they are actually part of the Texas Brewers Guild, and explained that their departure from the Colorado Brewers Guild was due to "cost" and the "organization's direction." (Chad elaborated to us: there was a time Oskar Blues was the single largest contributor to the Colorado Brewers Guild (based on volume); Chad was also the marketing chair on a volunteer basis, and OB created Burning Can as a fundraiser for the Colorado Brewers Guild. "But as we've continued to grow and the Guild has continued to take on more and more breweries ... our needs and approach has changed, so we went a different direction." Seems within the range of a private company's rights to us.)

 

He contends that Oskar Blues has long been supportive of the industry and other breweries, saying they've "always been responsive and helpful, and that it supports the scene with its restaurants."

 

Where do they go from here? "We will continue to do the things we do. Opening restaurants and matching live music with craft beer is something [Oskar Blues Fooderies] likes to do and is in our DNA," said Chad.

 

IT'S THE SAME APPROACH, ACTUALLY, FOR THE FOODERIES OPERATION. We got Chad on the phone, too. He reiterated his thanks to Chris for being one of Oskar Blues's early adopters.

 

But as for Chris's ranting on what Oskar Blues has "become"? Let's not forget that Oskar Blues started as a restaurant in '97 itself, featuring local craft beer from the likes of Left Hand, which at that time made an Oskar Ale. In fact Dale grew up in the restaurant business, which his mom handed down to him.

 

Further, the Oskar Blues brewery and Oskar Blues Fooderies are technically two separate businesses, because, well, laws. When Dale founded Oskar Blues, it was actually called Cajun Grill Restaurant, then became a brewpub in 1999 -- the top producing brewpub in America, in fact. Then in 2008 they added the Longmont brewery, and when they did that, they transitioned the original Cajun Grill back to a restaurant as part of the then-developed Oskar Blues Fooderies group. Hence the separation of OB and OB Fooderies.   

 

To that point, this latest downtown Denver concept that Chris is apparently so pissed about (our words) is "the same concept Oskar Blues Fooderies opened in '97 and 2009 -- Homemade Liquids and Solids -- Oskar Blues Fooderies is just taking it to downtown Denver: 16th and market." In other words, it's the continuation of Fooderies' existing approach.

 

As for the exotic cars zinger: Chad pointed out that "from the time Dale started the restaurant in '97 on five maxed out credit cards, and had to sell his beat up Ford Ranger to make payroll every week and then buy it back after a good weekend at the restaurant -- I think everyone close to him knows that he likes American muscle cars, not exotic cars," Chad quipped.  

 

But to the heart of the matter: "I'm not sure what from a supplier standpoint, Oskar Blues hasn't done" for Falling Rock to upset them, Chad said. To wit, we didn't see him outline anything to that end in his Facebook rant.

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