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December 7, 2012

City fees for eateries adding up

Some hit with double whammy

NEWBURYPORT — It is December, the month when the city collects license fees from public venues; have you tipped your restaurant owner lately?

The municipal Licensing Commission met Wednesday night, and began discussions on setting its fee schedule for 2014 to 2018.

During the session, members commented that this is a period that bar and restaurant owners dread because they must pay their annual fees in full for the following year.

For 2013, for instance, a restaurant with a license for full alcohol would owe $3,750; a fraternal club organization would pay $3,000. Restaurants with less than 50 seats are capped at $2,000 for full alcohol and $1,150 for beer and wine.

Annual fees are not prorated.

Jim Rogers, who recently opened Andiamo restaurant on Winter Street, appeared at the session to express his concern about the amount of cash that the system requires that he pay.

He said he had to pay for a full calendar year in order to open the restaurant in late fall, and now he must pay another full year. The requirement of coming up with more than $7,000 is a burden for a small business owner like himself, he said.

Peter Lombardi, director of policy and administration for the city, said that if the license fees were set by city ordinance, there could be no relief without action by the City Council.

If the fee schedule was set by the commission itself, then it might have leeway in considering a prorated schedule or another option.

The current fee structure has been in operation for a half-dozen years, and board members did not know the genesis of the schedule. Members requested Lombardi research the matter and get back to them.

Brad Duffin, who leads the commission, said that the board wants to be business friendly, but on this issue, it is not in a position to provide relief if the council had set the schedule. The matter will be taken up at the next meeting.

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