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Family-owned and -operated Santoni’s Supermarket of Highlandtown, Md., will be closing its doors by month’s end, citing the Mayor’s beverage tax levy on Baltimore City retailers as the sole reason for its business failure.
Well known in the Highlandtown community, Santoni’s has been the outspoken leader against the beverage tax and warned that it would be detrimental to city retailers.
“The Mayor has refused to listen to small business leaders,” said Rob Santoni, Jr., CFO of Santoni’s. “She is stubborn and will not admit that the beverage tax was a wrong decision on her part. Her insistence that Baltimore retailers carry this burden has not only cost my family our business, but the jobs of my employees. What has taken 83 years to build has been torn down by one person and one bad law. The Mayor’s political arrogance is appalling. She obviously does not possess certain skills needed to run this City. The City has lost a great retailer and the Highlandtown community is losing a passionate and charitable partner.”
Since the beverage tax levy went into effect in July 2010, Santoni's has realized total store sales loss in excess of $4 million since 2010, or 18 percent, but the beverage sales category has experienced sales decreases exceeding 28 percent during the same time period. Since the tax went into effect, customer traffic counts have decreased 20 percent. According to the grocer, the damage done by the beverage tax is irreversible and evidence that Baltimore retailers were right all along. Santoni's will lay off more than 80 employees.
In addition, Santoni's will end its partnership with the Baltimore City Health Department on a nationally recognized "Virtual Supermarket" program that provided fresh food to underserved food desert communities via Santoni's online shopping service. Santoni's will also cease operations of Baltimore's only free supermarket shuttle service which transported individuals living in food deserts to and from the store.
Santoni’s hopes to find a local buyer for its store, however a few local prospects are reluctant to buy another store in the city.