Citing the city’s controversial beverage tax, an Overbrook supermarket is slated for closure in three months.

After 30 years of serving the community, the ShopRite supermarket located at 67th Street and Haverford Avenue, has announced it will close on March 14.

“Since Mayor Kenney implemented this beverage tax, this store has lost about a quarter of its business and it’s gotten worse over the last couple of years,” said Jeff Brown of Brown’s Super Stores, which owns 13 Philadelphia –area supermarkets.

“This store now loses a lot of money and we’re not in a position to keep it going,” he said. “The Haverford store is down $7 million a year in revenue. People go outside of the city to buy their beverages and when they are there, they do their whole shopping order. With that kind of loss in sales, now the store loses a lot of money every year. It’s the unintended consequences of the policy. It’s a failure. It was not well thought out.”

According to Brown, the store’s 111 employees will be able to move to other locations in the city.

“The people in this store have been with me for a long time and we plan, when the store closes, to transfer them to our surrounding stores but ultimately there will be another 100 jobs losses, but not the people in the store because they are senior [employees],” Brown said.“We will slow up on our hiring and hopefully attrition will allow us not to lay anyone off, but we will be down another 111 people after we do the transition.”

He noted that the beverage tax is taking a negative toll on his other supermarkets located throughout the city.

“I have other stores in the city that lose money because of this beverage tax and if the beverage tax was repealed it would save a lot of hardship on a lot of people,” Brown said. “That’s what needs to be done. The truth of the matter is we have tried for two years to come up with some way to mitigate the damage of this beverage tax. We’ve tried a lot of different things and it doesn’t seem to be any way to overcome it.”

ShopRite will offer Lyft ride sharing services in an effort to help consumers affected by the closure.

“We put these stores in neighborhoods to try to correct a food desert problem and we have vulnerable customers we are concerned about, so for 2019, we are going to provide them with Lyft services to transport them from this neighborhood to our Parkside store,” Brown said. “We’re going to absorb the cost of that just to help our customers with this problem.”

In an emailed statement, Mike Dunn, the mayor’s spokesperson, said the beverage industry has not presented evidence that the tax has impacted sales.

“It is no surprise that Mr. Brown has decided to scapegoat the Philadelphia Beverage Tax, but neither he nor the beverage industry have yet to present any evidence that the tax has had any impact on sales,” Dunn said a statement.

“Here’s evidence to the contrary: an ongoing study by three of the most reputable academic institutions in the nation (Harvard University, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania) finds the beverage tax has not affected overall store sales, contrary to other public claims by this supermarket chain. In fact, just a few months ago ShopRite’s website showed a total of more than 400 job openings.”

He said since the tax took effect, wage tax revenues in the sectors most affected by the tax have been strong, while unemployment claims in those sectors have been down and the City has seen the opening of several groceries and markets since the tax took effect – including the largest-ever Wawa.

“Clearly, a good number of retailers have confidence in their ability to operate a profitable grocery in Philadelphia,” Dunn said. “They have the ability to adjust their inventory to accommodate shifts in sales volumes. And it is unlikely that the viability of one product line should be so damaging to a grocery store with a wide variety of products. Also remember that the beverage tax is a job creator, with 278 new PHLpreK hires since inception.”

“We are always concerned when a retailer is ‘struggling.’ But folks need to look at the reality of the situation – not the rhetoric of the industry.”

“Remember — the soda companies, the bottlers and the beverage industry at-large are multibillion-dollar companies. They don’t have a need to pass this tax on. They can pass a portion of it on, or they can cover the cost themselves. The fact is, it is the industry that is not showing any sympathy toward their own retailers. “

Councilman Curtis Jones, who represents the 4th District where the supermarket is located, said, “We’re very concerned” about the closing of a store that has been a “valuable asset in the community.

“We don’t want to have consumers in Overbrook and Overbrook Park not to have choices.”

There are at least five grocery stores in Jones’ district, which includes the closing ShopRite.

The councilman said he was aiming to hold a meeting with Brown and the mayor’s office in an attempt to save the store.

“I am going to enter into meetings with him [Jeff Brown] and the administration to talk about how that site will be utilized and hopefully we can do a Hail Mary to keep it open,” Jones continued.

The announcement about the closing comes at time when City Council was expected to hold hearings on the sweetened beverage tax and its finances. City Council’s next scheduled session is Jan. 24, and a hearing was expected to be scheduled sometime after that.

City Council passed the soda tax by a 13-4 vote nearly three years ago and it remains among Kenney’s top legislative accomplishments.

The closure of the Overbrook ShopRite in March would come weeks before the May primary, when Kenney is seeking a second term. The entire 17-member City Council is also up for election.

When asked whether the closure could be political, Jones said, “I don’t know the answer to that. I do know Jeff [Brown] to be an honorable businessman. And he has issue with that tax.”

Asked if he still supported the sweetened beverage tax, Jones hedged.

“I’m going to look at the [sweetened beverage tax] hearing and listen to what’s going on to see what the intended and unintended consequences are,” he said.

In November the Rev. Jay Broadnax, president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, called for repealing the tax, saying it has a regressive and disproportionate effect on African Americans and the poor.

In response to the announcement, Anthony Campisi emailed a statement on behalf of the Ax The Philly Bev Tax Coalition.

“This tax is claiming a supermarket that served a working-class neighborhood for 30 years. This community is losing an economic engine and a mainstay of the neighborhood where families shopped and worked,” the statement read.

“Make no mistake: This closure is the inevitable result of a tax that has drastically raised prices on thousands of beverages and has driven Philadelphia shoppers to the suburbs. This news is the clearest evidence yet that the beverage tax is wrong for Philadelphia families. Our elected leaders need to implement policies that lift families out of poverty — not create new food deserts that deprive residents of access to groceries.

“It’s time City Council and Mayor Kenney listen to their constituents, who overwhelmingly oppose this levy, and repeal a tax that is hurting Philadelphia’s neighborhoods and depriving its families of jobs.”

(Staff Writer Michael D’Onofrio contributed to this story)

ajones@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5747

(19) comments

Guest

Brown is getting $11 million in federal funds to build a new store in Atlantic City across from the Outlet Stores, that will also cater to wealthy people from Brigantine and Margate. NOT one penny if his own!

Guest

The deal was made with Atlantic City's current mayor, who is under investigation by local and national authorities, for being an a-hole! Deal may be renegotiated by Brown.

Guest

ACME is closing all its stores, because of high prices!

Guest

Acme is closing all stores or just all stores in Philly?

Guest

Sir, Jim Perkins, the current president of ACME, announced the other day, ACME lost over $12 million for the 3q that ended on December 8. Look for many closings.

Guest

Wendell Young IV, UFCW1776, LOVES Brown, and wishes ACME would go out of business already!

Guest

Jeff Brown has done a lot for the communities where he has built stores, including working with re-entry programs. Where the city got in trouble with this tax is by getting greedy. Remember when it was just a "soda" tax? Now it's a tax on ANY beverage that is sweetened or artificially sweetened.....is it necessary to tax kids' juice boxes, diet soda, energy and nutritional supplements, dairy-free beverages for lactose-intolerant people? AC has almost no supermarkets, you have to go to the White Horse and Black Horse Pikes to find one, tough to do if you don't have a car. If Brown gets funds to build in AC then good for him, at least people in AC will have a place to shop and more jobs. I live in Delco and I can assure you every supermarket and Walmart near me is mobbed on weekends with shoppers from West and Southwest Philly. You can't blame people for trying to save money.

Guest

Agreed🤔

Guest

The Walmart is always jammed with people . before and after the soda tax .. what about the Walmarts in the city .they jammed also tax or no tax. Explain why CVS doesn't charge customer the tax . Wawa always has high prices on Juice and Soda..they not loosing business. Wawa in city always jammed

Guest

I live on the Cheltenham/Philadelphia County line. The Shop Rite at Cheltenham and Ogontz is packed with Philly residents from sunrise. Before the tax, in the mornings the parking lot would have only a few cars. Not any more; and I completely understand. The mayor can spin this anyway he wants but a major supermarket chain closing a store on the Montgomery/Philly county line is evidence that this tax is hurting business. I can say this: Kenney will not get my vote on November 2019.

Guest

Yes, we all want to save money by buying our sweets in the county. Did anyone ever thing about what happens when you don’t patronize your own store. No, well it will close. No one in that area should have been doing all of their shopping in an area that does not or can’t support them and now no market. One thing that I never see is those poppy stores close, that’s becausse people run to them ALL day long and paying their high prices for everything. Wow, we let a store close because we are hooked on SUGAR. Remember you can’t do all of your shopping in the county, just buy the sweets and leave.

Guest

Jim Kenney does not care how much the average citizen of Philadelphia is hurt by his ever increasing taxes.In addition to this Soda Tax we have to pay additional taxes on our homes this year because of the ''Reassessment''. Kenney does not care because he lives in an expensive apartment downtown and does not own a home in Philadelphia.

Guest

Jeff Brown and his very adorable son, Scott, were going to open a very large ShopRite near 5th & Callowhill, just a few blocks from Kenney's condo at 3rd & Race, until the soda tax arrived. It was subsequently cancelled, and Target got that space instead. P.S. Mike Dunn, the dunce who speaks for Kenney shops at the Bala Cynwyd ACME for all his soda and Kosher needs!

Guest

Why did Jeff Brown decide to eliminate the Can Can girls from this week's ads? The # Me Too movement, Jeff ?

Guest

I live in Overbrook park for 16yrs and shop at Shoprite when needed, it's not the Soda Tax, it;s higher prices for groceries ,when you buy now a box of cereal, the box is smaller but you pay MORE FOR IT, I for one will not buy it some people will do with out, etc...etc... I will go else were to shop, It's not fair for people to pay higher price's that cant get around or drive. Groceries store's even Shoprite can do much better to HELP people in the neighborhood,by keeping the coast DOWN just because you can rise prices you do HELP by Education.We ALL no soda are not Good for any one, PUSH WATER not sugar drinks even tax's on kids drinks,( I know it will be hard too do when there is a ADDICTION on sugar drinks) every one has a part even YOU. I would think the Mayor is trying to get help with tax's to keep philly on the up & up, WILL YOU HELP MORE...

Guest

Jeff Brown, trump supporter, should run for Mayor of Philadelphia as a Republican, and get rid of the soda tax, wage tax, and the fictional publications like the Inquirer and Daily News. It's time for all good peoples to wise-up to our corrupt democrats.

alfrshep

Only Too The Distributors Then Write The Law So They
Can Not Pass The Tax Too The Customer = Simple = That Is Where All You Politicians Are Wrong Who Support This Version Passed

Guest

Mayor Kenney is a CROOK!

lboobalou

First of all I do not believe that all the money that is being paid by customers for philly beverage tax is going to pre K ! I read a comment where someone called mayor Kenney a crook ! I also read another comment that said he doesn't care about the beverage tax or the fact that we who are homeowners have to pay outrageously high taxes on our properties because he lives in an apt downtown ! He does not pay beverage taxes or property taxes ! But mayor Kenney and whoever else are pocketing all of the money that they are getting from us cause it sure all isn't going to pre K, kindergarten ! I am another person who will not be voting for putting him in office for a second term as mayor of Philadelphia ! There will be a lot of people who will not vote for him again ! So there for he should just call it quits when his term is over this time ! As far as the Shoprite closing at 67th and Haverford Ave. I have been shopping there for as long as the grocery store has been there because I live in the Overbrook section of Philly as do many others ! I have a hard enough time just being able to go there and shop for groceries ! Why ? Because I am over 60 and also disabled and don't have a car to get around ! And after the Shoprite of Haverford closes on March 14th it will be even more difficult for me to get to the Shoprite at Parkside ! A big inconvenience for sure is what it will be ! I'm so overwhelmed that I don't know what to do ! I am dreading to have to go thru all that I will have to go thru every time I go there ! All of us who live in Philly don't get a break on anything ! Even thou I don't smoke we still need to look at all the extra taxes that Mayor Nutter have Philadelphians paying 1st he add a $4.50 tax to a pack of cigarettes for those who smoke ! Then he more than double the amount that we pay for our property taxes on our homes ! Now mayor Kenney has all of us paying beverage taxes on all sweetened drinks ! We all pay to many taxes ! Waaay more taxes than any of the other cities pay ! Why ? Because they can't manage the budget amount because money always goes missing ? Then they want to keep forcing all these new added taxes on us to make up for it ! What tax will be added next ? Enough already !!!!!!!!!! [angry]

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