Philly restaurateurs to match soda tax with donations to local school

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Hawthornes owners Chris Fetfatzes and Heather Annechiarico say they're embracing the city's new beverage tax. They will match tax revenue from their restaurants and donate the money to a local school.

Most restaurant owners and corner stores have responded to the newly implemented beverage tax with concern, outrage, and, in one case, a promise to stop selling soda altogether.

But two married restaurateurs are taking a different approach.

Starting today, Chris Fetfatzes and Heather Annechiarico, owners of Hawthornes, the Cambridge, and Tio Flores, will be matching and then donating sweetened-beverage tax revenue to a local school in their neighborhood.

The 1.5 cent per ounce beverage tax is levied on distributors but merchants track how much they sell and, in this case, the owners will figure out how much tax revenue their eateries have generated, match and donate that amount to the Andrew Jackson School, a pre-K-to-8th grade school at 12th and Federal Street.

"It’s law, you can't do anything about it other than get in the way of it or kind of get behind it," Fetfatzes said. "So we decided to kind of make lemonade out of it and we’re going to be good corporate citizens.”

There's a more personal reason, too. Fetfatzes' 3-year-old son Leo will start pre-K in the fall and his one-year-old daughter isn't too far away.

The couple has fund-raised for the Andrew Jackson School before so it seemed like a natural fit, he said. The initiative will run through the school year.

Hawthornes and the Cambridge are both known for an extensive beer selection but sweetened beverages are also a big seller, especially at brunch, which Hawthornes is famous for.

“When someone has an upset stomach, they’re drinking ginger ale — you want a burger and fries, you’re going to drink a Coke,” he said.

The cost of sweetened beverages will rise at all three restaurants, given distributors have passed the cost on, Fetfatzes said, but thirsty patrons can sip away knowing the added cents are going to a good cause. He estimates the restaurant will bring in several thousand dollars for the school.

“I’m from Philly, born and raised went through public schools here," Fetfatzes said. "So its I think the school system is pretty damn important in keeping with the growth of the city." 

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