The Drink Tax Song

Terry Griffith, Pittsburgh’s Irish Balladeer, wrote a song about The Onorato Tax.

Watch a video of it here and read the lyrics here.

Here’s a snippet:

I sat down one evening to figure income tax.
I read the regulations and wrote down all the facts.
Before too long my pencil was just a little nub.
My head was aching badly so I went down to the pub.

I called for a pint of Guinness and it had a lovely head.
As the barman set it on the bar he looked at me and said.
I know it was six dollars the last time you were out
But now it’s six and sixty for a pint of Guinness stout.

Each and every time that Dan Onorato enters a restaurant in Allegheny County, this song should immediately be played over the sound system.  Kind of like his own personal Hail to the Chief.


  1. joey
    January 9, 2008 10:27 am

    I don’t get all the negativity regarding the drink tax. Taxes are good…I mean, look at how taxes have made Pittsburgh the growing, vibrant metropolis it is today.


    P.S.: The idiots who write the Letters to the Editor saying that if you can’t afford the extra 10%, then you should not be at the bar in the first place, should be taken out back and shot. These are the idiots who voted Danny O and Opie into office…and have made Pittsburgh what it is today.

  2. Erik
    January 9, 2008 10:36 am

    A Wikipedia search for “onorato tax” returns AIDS as an 81.8% match.

    Just sayin’.

  3. REARless
    January 9, 2008 10:53 am

    I understand the fact that we need to raise money for PAT to get matching state and federal funds. Onoranto claims it is either this or raise propety taxes.

    What REALLY PISSES ME OFF is that not once did I read about anyone lowering costs at PAT. The damn politicians treat them like a sacred cow. The bus drivers earn, on average, over $50K!!!! Plus sweet benefits. The highest one earned over $90K. $90K!!!! I know of doctors and lawyers that don’t bring home $90K. Only Seattle treats their bus drivers better and, oh yea, their economy and population is actually growing.

  4. back in the burgh
    January 9, 2008 10:58 am

    Have you ever seen the PAT offices? Holy crap … talk about a place to save money. I was there for a meeting once and they have the best of the best conference tables, lighting fixtures, etc. I don’t mean they just look nice … they have been specially made and imported just for them. Ridiculous.

  5. bucdaddy
    January 9, 2008 11:00 am

    So here’s what you do to fight the drink tax (Spoon, you with me?): You go to EEBC ( and you get a growler and you fill it up every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday and take it home and enjoy it, cause Scott thinks there’s a loophole in the tax law that it doesn’t apply to growler fills. Until they close the loophole (and those of you with the power to do so who might read this, go f*** yourselves if you close it), or until the tax man shows up to show Scott where he’s wrong, your beer’s at the 2007 price.

    I live in West Virginia. I shouldn’t have to tell yinz’all where to find great beer in your own back yards, should I?

    Now drink up!

  6. Kelli
    January 9, 2008 11:25 am

    Actually, Danny O says that PAT won’t get any money unless they do cut costs.

    This tax money isn’t even going directly to PAT – it is going in the general fund, out of which the county pays their portion to PAT. They also pay their other obligations out of this fund – so Danny O can tell you that money is going where ever he damn well pleases, as it is all general fund money.

    Danny O has also stated that he will take what the county owes PAT and drop it in a special fund if they do not cut costs.

    The worst costs aren’t really with the driver’s salaries – the folks that make 90K or whatever are doing it by working over-time/volunteering for holidays/whatever. Sure, it would be good to have them throw in more on their bennies, but you can’t really fault a guy making big money if he’s willing to put in the hours to make that big money.

    The bigger issue to me is the Golden Parachutes given to former executives. There are executives that retired from PAT, get a pension of several thousand dollars a month, work someone else for an excellent wage – AND get their health benefits through PAT. That is where the waste needs to be cut. What – it would be super if my old job would still pay for my full benefits – but that shouldn’t be how things work.

  7. suz
    January 9, 2008 11:26 am

    While I am not a registered Democrat, I was in agreement with a lot of Dan’s thinking on many issues. However, anything “good” that he has ever, ever done, politically, has been negated by this one issue. Onorato has NO IDEA of the damage that he has done by enacting this drink tax. No clue. You’ve lost my support, Dan, and the only way to get it back is to admit that you were wrong on this one.

    Bravo, Terry Griffith! I raise a pint to you.

  8. spoon
    January 9, 2008 12:22 pm

    We will always support Scott and his products. Scott is an incredible brewer and a great person. Support your local brewers and when it comes time for the next election remember what Danny did to you.

    Terry’s song will be included (thanks for the permission Terry!) on the next Should I Drink That ( which we are recording this weekend.

    If anyone would like us to read your thoughts on the drink tax send them to by Friday. We do carry an explicit tag so feel free to let loose :)

  9. JP
    January 9, 2008 1:12 pm

    The drink tax is a red herring and will not affect revenues in the slightest material way. Anybody who is griping about how 10% is going to affect their consumption patterns needs to get a grip or at least read a textbook on market economics, especially the chapter on price elasticity of demand.

  10. Zsa
    January 9, 2008 1:55 pm

    Forget consumption patterns. The people who are really getting screwed are bar owners and waitstaff. Even though many of them are making it very clear that the increased prices weren’t their idea & they’re forced to do it, I’ve heard of angry customers walking out and leaving no tips.

    Oh, and I think that OnoRATo saying that PAT has to cut costs to get the money is an out & out lie. He’ll give it to them no matter what.

  11. Gunn Lino
    January 9, 2008 1:59 pm

    Just returned from CA, brought back with me six, count’em six cases of wines, and several other items of alcoholic content.
    Danny O, I would invite you over for a drink, but then again, kiss my fatty.

  12. Kelli
    January 9, 2008 2:13 pm

    Zsa – it very well may be a lie (as I think much the man says is) but, contrary to what some other readers have mentioned, Danny O actually did say it.

  13. JP
    January 9, 2008 2:18 pm

    Agreed on the issue of wait staff, people who short wait staff over a buck or two a round are pretty low class, but you will have that in this town. Not sure how owners are getting shorted, tax is completely passed-on to consumers so no hit to their margins. Alcohol sales are pretty inelastic so worst case revenues are down 3% in the short term. Maybe bars on the county borders get squeezed. But overall seems like a pretty small price to pay to have ensure your staff has a reliable way to get to work. When you think about food service industry is heavily reliant on public transportation.

  14. Adam
    January 9, 2008 2:51 pm

    I think playing a song in his favor would just boost his ego more. Pleas tell me he will not run for governor, but perhaps I will have moved by then.

  15. Eileen
    January 9, 2008 3:16 pm

    Think ol’ Dan O is attending daily AA meetings? I can’t see him walking into a bar anytime soon.

  16. TransMan
    January 9, 2008 3:20 pm

    “What REALLY PISSES ME OFF is that not once did I read about anyone lowering costs at PAT.”

    How quickly we forget…

    It was exactly this time a year ago that the Port Authority began the process to cut 15% of its routes to save money and increase efficiency (remember all those angry public hearings?), followed quickly by layoffs, freezing wages for non-union workers, and dropping health insurance for management and non-union retirees. As Kelli said, Dan O has pledged not to give a penny of the drink tax money to the Port Authority unless they get a new contract that brings bus driver wages and benefits into line.

  17. joey
    January 9, 2008 3:37 pm

    JP: you are one of the idiots I was talking about. It is not the fact that a 10% tax is going to break the bank; it is the fact that the gov’t has decided to make drinkers pay for a broken transit system.

    TransMan: F PAT. They dug themselves a hole. I could care less if they have to fire everyone and cut all their wages.

    When you don’t have enough money to pay the bills, you either go bankrupt or cut your costs. If PAT can’t operate on its budget, it either needs to increase fares accordingly, cut costs, or go bankrupt. But to make one segment of the population pay for their stupidity is madness.

  18. Bulldog
    January 9, 2008 3:42 pm

    I think the whole entire point is that this is yet another tax that was shoved down our throats by our ineffective and efficient tax and spend government bureaucrats without the voters ever having ay say in the matter.

    It seems that in this area the government’s answer is ALWAYS raise taxes first and worry about consequences later if at all.

    When one looks at the absolutely, totally rediculous taxes that are already levied on alcohol in this state, there is no room to be surprised at YET ANOTHER brand new 10% tax. It is out of control.

    As for the line that it’s a small price to pay for food service workers to have a reliable way to get to work, that it the true red herring. The state is already taking in many billions of dollars in taxes and fees. How about using some of the Johnstown Flood Tax that is STILL being levied on alchol sales in the state more than 70 years AFTER the flood?

    Give me a break. The state has collected well over $1 billion in gambling revenue since the PA Casinos opened, and there still hasn’t been any meaningful property tax relief as Ed Spendell promised.

  19. JP
    January 9, 2008 4:43 pm

    Nice invective, but it still does not change the fact that public transportation needs to be funded. If you can’t handle reallocating 10% of your disposable income maybe you should move to Butler or Somerset. Something tells me you might like there more anyway

  20. DrunkDaddy
    January 9, 2008 5:57 pm

    JP…maybe you’d feel differently if they were increasing taxes on pocket protectors or admission to nerd conventions.

    Public transportation does need to be funded…but like a lot of things around here, we’ve got a lot more going than we need. Cut back on routes, golden parachutes, etc. And do bus drivers really need to make 90K, or even 50K. They drive for a living. Buses. That’s it.

  21. zarum
    January 9, 2008 6:31 pm

    #10. The people who walk out and leave no tip were just looking for an excuse not to leave a tip anyway. You’re an asshole if you leave no tip because your pissed at the county.

  22. bucdaddy
    January 10, 2008 12:00 am

    Somebody up there needs a time-out.

  23. bucdaddy
    January 10, 2008 1:10 am

    zarum, You’re an asshole if you leave no tip, period. Unless the server was truly atrocious, in which case the manager should be called anyway.

    My sister has worked in food service for many years. The stories she can tell (as I presume anyone who has worked in food service for more than five minutes can) about jerks who leave pennies for tips would make you cry. I routinely tip 20%, and Saturday I was at Fatheads and the waitress told me I could sample all the beers I wanted, and I did, and I tipped her $5 on a $20.50 tab.

    I used to be miserly, then I was cheap and now I’ve worked my way up to frugal. It’s tough to get money out of me. But these people are the backbone of the service industry, and I’ve had a lot more good ones than bad, and I don’t see them driving Mercedeses and Beamers. When I do, I’ll reconsider.

  24. Kelli
    January 10, 2008 9:03 am

    Drunk Daddy – let me say it again, really slowly for you: The drivers who make 90K are getting there by working over-time and holidays. If they work the hours, they should be paid for them. If they work enough hours to get to 90K, that is their business.

    Also, driving bus is not easy. People are assholes. Those same folks who don’t leave a tip – they are probably the same ones I’ve seen scream in the face of the bus drivers and trash the buses.

    Anyway, from the way I’m defending public transportation, you’d think I like the tax. I don’t. I’m paying every which way they can get money out of me. I’m a Zone 1 rider – we took the largest hit in the fare hike. A full 25% – that is more than any other Zone or the cash riders.

    25% on my transportation budget, 10% on my drinking budget – it sucks.

    But I know that it needs funded. I know that cuts need to be made, preferably ones that won’t ruin the moral of the current employees – go after the retired execs & their golden parachutes. The routes need to be more efficient. Even the system of printing the hand schedules could be more efficient.

    But most importantly, let me reiterate: the tax goes into the general county fund. Danny O can tell you it is going to PAT, but once it goes into that pot, it is county money. PAT has been made a scapegoat. Danny O is using it for political subterfuge – if we’re all looking at PAT, we aren’t looking at all the other ways the county is being wasteful.

    Truly, we need to cut waste all around.

  25. BagitTagit
    January 10, 2008 9:20 am


  26. Jonesin for Julie Gong
    January 10, 2008 9:40 am

    Someone needs to goto their happy place….

  27. DrunkDaddy
    January 10, 2008 9:44 am


    Thank you, me not smart.

    So other than your bithcy response about OT for that one driver that makes 90K, what about the dozens or scores or whatever is that make somewhat less than that but still much, much more than other service industry employees?

    People are assholes (you, for instance, might say I am), but they treat waitresses and bartenders and grocery store clerks and so on and so forth like crap, too. Think any of those people are making 90, or 80, or 70, or 60 or 50K?

    Sorry, PAT isn’t a scapegoat. Danny is taking the hit here and properly so. And let me say this slowly for you, PAT is very, very, very, very poorly run with excesses from the bottom to the top.

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  29. Zsa
    January 10, 2008 10:40 am

    Am I the only one who doesn’t like the idea of people who drive large vehicles working tons of overtime hours? Wouldn’t it be better if they, ummm, slept? I am assuming anything over 40 hours a week is overtime.

  30. Jonesin for Julie Gong
    January 10, 2008 10:46 am

    Name one government entity that isnt run efficiently. From PAT to the PTC to PennDOT…

    Suggest taking a paycut instead of limiting service routes and see how fast that gets cut down….

    I dont use PAT but you can tell where the money goes….I see it everytime I pass a bus alongside the road broken down…

  31. JP
    January 10, 2008 11:18 am

    Drunk daddy nerd conventions fine but hands off pocket protectors. I hate paying taxes and no offense, (something tells me I pay a site more than you do) but this is a city and $hit needs to be funded. Please show me one mma in the US that doesn’t subsidize its public transit. Maybe you will spout off with the tired trap about “well if it can’t be run like a private business it should be privatized” well do a little research and see how that is working out in other places. Maybe you will come off with the line well than it should be left to die. Yeah great that will work out super for city nothing attracts business like cutting back on infrastructure and that won’t hurt any businesses here at all. Redundant service cuts, getting the union back to reality on health care contributions, raising fares, and holding the line on expenditures are all things the county should be and is doing. But public transit is never going to survive without subsidies no matter how efficient they are. If you can’t deal with paying for infrastructure, you should move to the country.

  32. TransMan
    January 10, 2008 12:19 pm

    Contrary to what some have said, the drink and rental car taxes cannot go into the county’s general fund. The text of HB 1590 (otherwise known as Act 44), Chapter 86, section 806 (B) reads as follows: “Money obtained from the imposition (of the tax) shall be depositied into a restricted account of the county.”

    And the sentence immediately prior to that one says that the “restriction” is that the tax money is to be used for “financial support of transit systems.”

    I’m not lawyer, but I play one on TV.

  33. efw_west
    January 10, 2008 12:23 pm

    from joey above: When you don’t have enough money to pay the bills, you either go bankrupt or cut your costs. If PAT can’t operate on its budget, it either needs to increase fares accordingly, cut costs, or go bankrupt. But to make one segment of the population pay for their stupidity is madness

    you said it all. bravo.

  34. DrunkDaddy
    January 10, 2008 12:53 pm


    My suggestion is you start your own blog so you can write post after post about PAT, eminent domain, the city’s financial ills, your favorite movies, etc.

    But I gotta be honest, I don’t want to research privitization. It just doesn’t sound fun. And I’m not trying to be rude, but my impression is this site is supposed to thought-provoking and fun.

    And don’t be so condescending…I’m not against taxation to support infrastructure, but wouldn’t you agree the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and various agencies like PAT have done a piss-poor job with the funds we’ve provided to them thus far?

    Would you also agree that we already subsidized the shit of PAT before this 10 percent tax was approved?

    I agree with above post…making us booze hounds pay for it is just wrong.

  35. Marc
    January 10, 2008 12:55 pm

    I heard on the news the other day that Philly’s mass transit costs are less than 1/4 of ours. That is ridiculous, and that’s why I’m pissed.

  36. JP
    January 10, 2008 1:42 pm

    you know, you are right I this crap way too seriously.

  37. I'll drink (in AlCo) to that!
    January 10, 2008 4:04 pm

    I think we need another stadium, while we’re at it.

  38. DrunkDaddy
    January 10, 2008 4:04 pm

    maybe we all do…go Steelers.

    I mean Go Penguinos.

  39. Bram R
    January 10, 2008 11:33 pm

    I don’t care.
    I guess that means the gub’ment gets my money.
    I’m okay with that, for now.

  40. NoSide15212
    January 11, 2008 2:15 am

    Legacy costs are what is crippling the Port Authority. The cuts made to the Executive level salaries, pensions, benefits, golden parachutes, etc., were very much needed and righted a crime against humanity, but over the long haul, they amount to a drop in the bucket compared to ongoing costs of health and pension benefits. Port Authority retirees only began contributing to their own healthcare a few years ago and even still it is a nominal amount. What ought to scare the living bejeezus out of everyone is that there are more retirees than active employees at the Port Authority. It doesn’t take an actuarial to figure out that the system is poised for collapse. Going forward, the pensions have to go –new hires should be offered only a defined contribution plan that places the impetus for saving on the employee; the entitlement culture among civil servants has to go, not just at the Port Authority, but throughout municipal government in Pennsylvania, including the bureaucratic morass called public schools. Just wait for teachers in the City Schools to go on strike –it’s going to look like Pompeii in this town, moments before the lava consumed the populace: people running for their lives, screaming, stampeding…

  41. Time2Move
    January 12, 2008 9:09 am

    This city is becoming a real joke. First it was the extra 1% for the stadiums……Now the Steelers get the rights to develop the area around Heinz Field. Now the Penguins want there share….. Then there is the parking tax. My wife works in town, and I often pick her up for lunch…..we don’t ever eat in town because I can eat for what it cost top park a car for an hour…How about the “renovation on the convention center…….How do you renovate by completely tearing down a building? Then the new center is too damn small for any real conventions, not to mention the lack of Hotel rooms…..Now we have the drink tax and the rental car tax……If I were from out of town, I couldn’t wait to come here….NOT! Hey how about Aramark rounding all of their prices up to the next quarter…..Again, helping to promote our city. Bullcrap! Danny boy, Opie, and the ex-mayor Murphy.
    should be hung in Market Square!

    But never fear…..soon we can ride the “subway under the river! What a Boondogle that is!

    Wake up people!

  42. Jonesin for Julie Gong
    January 14, 2008 8:38 am

    boondoggle….Love that term…

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  44. Jay
    March 17, 2008 8:32 pm

    Listen Pittsburgh, Stop voting Democrat! The party believes in throwing oil at a fire to put it out for God’s sake! Raise taxes to fix economic problems?!?!? The government needs to get the hell out of the way of capitalism. I EARN my money. I don’t want yours Dan, Don’t take mine. When I go to the Pub, I am buying a drink that has already been taxed! The money that I earned has already been taxed. I’ve even been taxed for the “priveledge” of working in this city. It seems like the best plan for me may be to get fired go, on welfare, and ride the busses for free. Then I will be a looter just like Danny-Boy.