Grocery Store Owners Say City Council Bag Fee Doesn’t Make Sense

The City Council just passed new legislation that will put a 5-cent fee on plastic bags.That's leaving one grocery store owner in Ridgewood concerned about how it will affect his customers. NY1's Clodagh McGowan filed the following report.

Come October, groceries won't be the only thing customers will be paying for at the supermarket.

The City Council passed a bill Thursday to charge shoppers 5 cents per bag, paper or plastic.

"It feels like the city's forcing us to punish the customer for being a customer. It's setting a lot of limitations on how they shop, when they shop and where they shop," said Jose Almonte, the owner of Vitelio's Marketplace in Ridgewood.

Vitelio's Marketplace is an independent grocery store, not affiliated with a big chain.

According to the city, retailers will keep the money they collect from the fee. 

However, because Almonte believes he'll have to pay tax on that revenue, he doesn't think it will benefit mom and pop shops like his. 

"I believe it's going to be a detriment to us. Those 5 cents don't really come to us. At the end of the day, we have to register that as a sale. We have to pay taxes on that. We have to charge a customer tax on that because it's a non-food item," Almonte said.

Almonte is a member of the National Supermarket Association, a trade group for independent supermarket owners.

He says because the fee doesn't pertain to food stamps recipients, he's concerned about charging some customers and not others.

"That ranks of some sort of discrimination towards the person who is not receiving benefits from the city. So it adds more pressure to our tax dollars," Almonte said.

Most shoppers NY1 spoke with here in Ridgewood are split on the decision, finding pros and cons with both sides of the argument.

"It will avoid people from grabbing bags and just tossing them in the street. But then again, for those families that don't have the right type of income, that they on a budget, even though it's 5 cents, but it accumulates," said Jenny Vergara, a Ridgewood resident.

City officials say New Yorkers use more than 9 billion single use bags a year, at a cost of $12.5 million to transport them to the landfills.

Advocates say charging a few cents per bag could save the city millions in the long run.​

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