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Pop: The Question

Governor Paterson recently proposed an 18 percent “obesity tax” on non-diet soft drinks. We asked chefs and restaurateurs if they’re for or against the measure, and what they would tax instead.

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Gabrielle Hamilton
Chef-Owner, Prune
I question the idea of legislating or taxing the “symptom” and not addressing the root problem. A well-timed ice-cold Coca-Cola is one of life’s greatest taste and sensory experiences: the way it makes your eyes sting and tear up, and the back of your throat gets that chalky moment as good or better even than some of the highest tannins in a big red wine, and then the full sugar and caffeine rush that completely cures what ails you. I’m not saying every day and I’m not saying three a day. I mean one perfectly placed Coke in your week. Pragmatically speaking, if we imposed a tax on the 50 billion places now hawking small plates, handcrafted artisanal cocktails with antique bitters, house-cured salumi, and featuring servers who call the customer “dude” or “bro” while texting on their cell phones, we could probably put enough dough in the state till to end obesity for generations.

Drew Nieporent
Owner, Corton, Nobu
Love the guv, hate the tax. Tax people who make reservations in restaurants and don’t show up or call to cancel.

David Lynch
General Manager, the John Dory
That’s higher than the capital-gains rate, but I guess I’d rather have another random sin tax than a hike in property-tax rates. Enforcement/implementation would be tricky, but I’m sure there’d be widespread support in the restaurant industry for a “no show” tax. I’d tax any hard-alcohol drinks ordered served in stemmed wineglasses. I’d tax apple-tinis, espresso-tinis, and all other non-martini martinis. And any cappuccinos ordered for anything but breakfast.

Christina Tosi,
Chef, Momofuku Bakery & Milk Bar
Against! Soda is my soul mate and one of the beautiful, simple pleasures in life, especially when paired with a bag of chips, a sack of candy, or a slice of pizza. The truth is, I would pay triple for carbonated sugar water. I’d tax not ordering dessert.

Jim Lahey,
Owner, Sullivan St Bakery, Co.
How absolutely absurd. There should be a foie gras tax as well. Smoking suppresses hunger. Sex is a great calorie burner; how about tax incentives to have more sex? I would impose a tax on any diner who asks that their meal be deconstructed (pasta or pizza with sauce on the side, salad without dressing). All the monies would be used to fund training centers and group therapy for frustrated chefs and servers.


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