Retailers going to court to try to stop Cook County's beverage tax

The Illinois Retail Merchants Association will be in Cook County circuit court Wednesday seeking to stop Cook County's new tax on sweetened beverages.

The group seeks an injunction, which could put the new tax on hold for up to 10 days, if approved by the judge. The penny-per-ounce tax, which was set to go into effect Saturday, is on pre-made sweetened beverages sold by restaurants and retailers.

The association also seeks to stop the new tax entirely, said association vice president and general counsel Tanya Triche Dawood.

"The county kept making changes to the ordinance, including one on June 1, and that makes it difficult to comply when the ball keeps getting moved," Triche Dawood said.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle's office was served on Tuesday and is still reviewing the documents.

"We intend to aggressively defend our position and the ordinance in court," Cook County spokesman Frank Shuftan said.

The association filed the two actions Tuesday in Cook County circuit court on behalf of retailers, including Tony's Fresh Market, Valli Produce Inc. and others required to collect the tax and remit it to Cook County. The documents said the new sweetened beverage tax violates the uniformity clause of the state constitution and the law cannot easily be understood so retailers can comply with it.

Triche Dawood said the uniformity clause of the state constitution requires taxing bodies to have reasonable taxable categories.

The ordinance taxes pre-made sweetened beverages but excludes sweetened beverages made on demand. For example, a ready-to-drink sweetened iced tea served from a chilled urn is taxable. But a sweetened iced tea prepared behind the counter and given to the customer is not taxable, the association said.

County officials said the tax, along with raising money, will reduce obesity and diabetes among residents.

New tax on soda, sugary drinks starts July 1 in Cook County

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