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Mayor Defends City Bottle Tax After Santoni's Closure

BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Mayor Stephanie Rawling-Blake jumps to the defense of the city's bottle tax, as Santoni's supermarket closes. Owner Rob Santoni says the tax drove away his customers.

Political reporter Pat Warren has more on two very different stories.

This is one of those stories where the operation was a success but the patient died.

The grocer...

"Santoni's is closing," Santoni said.

The government...

"It breaks my heart that he's closing," said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

The feud...

"It's the byproduct of the bottle tax," Santoni said.

"I respectfully disagree that the bottle tax is solely to blame," Rawlings-Blake said.

"She's misinformed, as with most of the details on the bottle tax, she's misinformed," Santoni said.

The 5 cents bottle tax was a 2011 rallying cry to raise money for city schools, after a 2 cents tax imposed in 2010. It passed, despite Santoni's and other businesses warning that it would take them under.

"You can't come in and run a business and you're just spinning your wheels every day with a local government that just doesn't want to listen," Santoni said.

The mayor is listening when Santoni says the bottle tax killed him. She's just not buying it.

In any case, she won't be lowering it.

"Absolutely not," the mayor said.

The Maryland Retailers Association says that's bad news for them.

"The independent grocer's going to find it exceedingly difficult as Santoni's supermarket has," said Patrick Donoho, Maryland Retailers Association.

Santoni says he's lost $4 million in sales, 18 percent of his business.

The city has collected more than $17 million since 2011.

"We're just low hanging fruit for them to keep plugging holes in the ship's hull. That's all," Santoni said.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake says five supermarkets have opened in Baltimore since the tax was imposed.

Santoni's opened in Highlandtown in 1930. It will close by the end of the month.

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