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No new Dick’s drive-ins in Seattle? Businesses, grocers group, others react to tax

SEATTLE -- After weeks of debate and public comment, the Seattle City Council passed a smaller version of the original head tax in a 9-0 vote on Monday afternoon.

Monty Anderson with the Seattle Building and Construction Trades Council, says the scaled-down version is better, but he still doesn’t like it.

“No, I'm not happy about the head tax, but I think we got away from the edge of the building at least,” said Anderson.

Other local businesses aren’t seeing it that way. Saul Spady, part of the family behind Dick’s drive-ins, says businesses like theirs are weighing smaller work forces, cutting charity donations and potentially choosing places outside Seattle to expand.

“We can really commit to the fact that we’re not going to build another drive-in in Seattle and maybe we’ll choose -- another drive-in may be better in Tacoma than Queen Anne,” said Spady.

Also weighing potential cuts to the workforce is Jan Gee with the Washington Food Industry Association, who represents independent and locally owned grocery stores.

“Very disappointed,” Gee said about the head tax passing. She says it will mean a hit to consumers.

“Have to increase the cost of groceries to make up for the tax,” said Gee.

Ask Amanda Woods, who works directly with those affected by homelessness, and she says she’ll happily pay a few dollars more at the grocery store to help chip away at the homeless crisis.

"I am happy that progress is happening,” Woods said, but added that she’s disappointed the original head tax didn’t pass that projected about $75 million toward homelessness.

Woods says the head tax will mean she can provide more to help the people she serves.

"Various case management services, potentially provide us with basic amenities for shelters,” said Woods.

Many in the business community have expressed concern about throwing more money at the problem without much in the way of results so far. The City Council, along with Mayor Jenny Durkan, say they will be making that a priority now.

“Now we have to prove to the public that we’re investing wisely and strategically, and I don’t think we’ve convinced the public of that. They’re not seeing the kind of change even with the money we’re spending now,” said Bruce Harrell, president of the Seattle City Council.