PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — After shopping at a West Philadelphia supermarket for decades, customers were emotional to find out it’s closing its doors Thursday. According to the store’s owner, the city’s so-called soda tax is to blame.READ MORE: North Philadelphia Rat Infestation 'Subsiding And Leaving Slowly' After City Officials Lay Down Poison In Empty Lot
The beverage tax debate rages on after the closing of the ShopRite is West Philadelphia. The store’s owner blames the mayor’s office, and the mayor’s office responded to the criticism.
The Overbrook store is closed for good.
“Once this area closes, this will be a food desert,” owner Jeff Brown said.
The store’s signage was removed after decades of serving the community. And according to Brown, mayor Jim Kenney’s beverage tax killed it.
“The one thing I hope to get out of this is when a public official refuses to meet about something, it does real harm to the city,” Brown said. “This store is closing because of the beverage tax.”
“It just hurts. Thirty years of my life, I started when I was 18. I raised my kids being an employee of this store and it’s sad,” employee Roe Messina said.READ MORE: Philadelphia Weather: Climate Prediction Center Predicts Above-Average Temperatures This Winter
“We lost a lot of customers, I mean, we’re so close to the border. You can go 15 minutes one way or 15 minutes another, and you don’t have to deal with the beverage tax,” said Messina.
But the mayor’s chief of staff, Jim Engler, says it’s simply not true.
“Regarding Mr. Brown, there are reasons why stories open and close,” Engler said. “We’ve studied the amount and they’ve stayed relatively constant.”
But the battle continues over Mayor Kenney’s key piece of policy.
On Thursday, city council authorized the hiring of an independent third party to study the economic and fiscal impact of taxes and fees, including the beverage tax.
Engler says the mayor’s office welcomes the study and will open its books, if called upon.
As for the Overbrook ShopRite location, the city has plans for that as well.
“The mayor is concerned about that community and grocery store there,” Engler said. “We’ve been working to get a new grocery store in there and hopefully we’ll have something positive to announce in the next couple days.”MORE NEWS: Philadelphia Police Investigating After Threats Of Violence Emailed To Jewish Community Center
The employees of that ShopRite have all been transferred to other locations. The mayor’s chief of staff say it’s disappointing that Brown is using his people as pawns.