Today’s news:

Tax on wine, soda, beer leaves retailers feeling flat

Queens restaurant owners said they were not pleased about Gov. David Paterson’s proposed fee increases on soda and alcoholic beverages, but viewed the taxes as necessary evils as the state economy continues to struggle through a downturn.

The governor, who has proposed a total $121 billion budget for next year, is attempting to close a $15.4 billion budget gap by putting 88 new fees into effect, including taxes on iPods, downloaded music, movies and cab rides.

Paterson has also proposed taxing soda, beer and wine as part of his plan. Under the proposal, sugared soft drinks would be taxed 18 percent.

Restaurant owners from the borough had mixed reactions on whether the proposed taxes would affect their business and whether they would be forced to raise their prices.

Dan Brown, bartender at Uncle Jack’s Steakhouse on Bell Boulevard in Bayside, said most people would grin and bear the new taxes.

“It’s like all other taxes — after a while people just accept it,” he said. “The state government is in a real mess, so they’ll do what they have to do. It’s always luxury items that get hit first. But I personally don’t think it will stop people from buying a bottle of wine or a glass of beer.”

Harry Panagiotopoulos, owner of Igloo Cafee on 31st Street in Astoria, said he thought the taxes would affect his business.

“If we get taxed on soda, we’ll have to raise prices,” he said. “Customers may no longer be able to get free refills, so they might not order it anymore.”

Panagiotopoulos said Igloo patrons currently get as many free refills on soda as they can drink.

“We’re already cutting down on product because business is slow,” he said. “Orders have been down 25 percent in the last couple months because money is tight.”

Ted Apodiacos, owner of Pete’s Pizza on Bell Boulevard in Bayside, said they did not expect the proposed fees to affect business too much because the restaurant serves items, including pastas and pizza, that are mostly lower priced.

Apodiacos said he would not raise his rates on soda or alcohol if the taxes are put into effect.

“If we don’t have a choice in this, then we’ll have to go along with it,” he said. “So, people who like to have a glass of wine or beer with their food may think twice about doing it. But I’ll take the hit and wait until the economy gets better. You’ve gotta treat your customers fairly in this type of economy.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at nduke@timesledger.com or by phone at 178−229−0300, Ext. 156.

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