Soft drink tax to begin Aug. 2 in Chicagoland

soda pop coke glass

A penny-an-ounce tax on soft drinks will take effect tomorrow in Chicago after opponents failed to sustain a court-ordered halt on adoption.

The tax extends to all of Cook County, a densely populated area that includes the city and a number of its suburbs. The county is the nation's second largest, with more than 5.2 million residents.

Unlike the taxes in Philadelphia and Berkeley, Calif., the Cook County tax applies to all sweetened beverages, including diet versions that are sweetened with zero-calorie alternatives to sugar. It extends to both prepackaged and fountain drinks.

Juices, waters, and coffee and tea brewed on-premise are not covered.

Although county officials cite potential health benefits from the tax, they have acknowledged that their motivation is financial. After a judge stopped enactment of the law on June 30, the county alerted 300 employees they would be laid off, saying the jurisdiction would not have sufficient funds without the tax to pay the job holders.

Local retailers have griped that the sudden about-face on the law on Friday left them insufficient time to adjust to the higher prices they will be required to charge.

On Friday, the Circuit Court of Cook County reversed the temporary stay on the tax that was issued June 30 by Judge Daniel Kubasiak after the Illinois Retail Merchants Association filed a legal challenge. The levy was originally set to begin on July 1.

The IRMA has indicated that it is considering an appeal of the Circuit Court’s decision.

Consumption of sugared drinks dropped 21% after a penny-an-ounce tax was levied in Berkeley. 

Seattle; Boulder, Colo.; and San Francisco, Oakland and Albany, Calif., have also recently passed taxes on sweetened drinks. 

Members help make our journalism possible. Become a Restaurant Business member today and unlock exclusive benefits, including unlimited access to all of our content. Sign up here.


Exclusive Content


As restaurant tech consolidates, an ode to the point solution

Tech Check: All-in-one may be all the rage, but there’s value in being a one-trick pony.


Steak and Ale comes back from the dead, 16 years later

The Bottom Line: Paul Mangiamele has vowed to bring the venerable casual-dining chain back for more than a decade. He finally fulfilled that promise. Here’s a look inside.

Consumer Trends

Fast food has lost its reputation as a cheap meal

Years of price hikes are driving consumers to grocery stores and even full-service restaurants, which are now viewed by some as a better deal.


More from our partners