RDA rebates PourVino license fee, weighs future options

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The Redevelopment Authority approved its first liquor license rebate Thursday, while also weighing what might be the next request.

The RDA voted to refund the $10,000 reserve liquor license fee paid by the pourvino wine bar, a decision which the City Council last year voted to put in the RDA’s hands.

At the same time, the group heard from Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition Director Joann Wieland that PIC is considering applying for a class A retail liquor license, when one becomes available, for the Generations intergenerational center.

That raised some questions among RDA members whether PIC would qualify, under the RDA guidelines, for a refund of the $10,000 fee.

Under state law, any new retail liquor licenses carry an additional $10,000 fee on top of the regular license fee, although municipalities have the ability to refund that amount if they wish.

The criteria set by the RDA include building renovation, job creation and economic impact. Under the rules set by the council, fee rebates to a so-called greenfield development – new buildings in non-blighted or new development areas – are prohibited.

The RDA is allowed to retain any amount it does not rebate to a license holder.

RDA member Gary Haucke wondered if the group shouldn’t consider keeping a portion of pourvino’s fee in order to build up its own coffers, but conceded that the wine bar had met all the criteria for a full rebate. “It is a real conundrum since we’re underfunded,” he commented.

“They have fulfilled the intent of the RDA – made a significant investment, improved the property and employed people,” RDA member David Williams said of pourvino.

As for PIC, City Administrator Brian Yerges told the RDA members, “(they are) looking for some impact on what would happen to that $10,000 before they applied for the liquor license. It essentially boils down to would the RDA give the $10,000 back or not.”

Wieland noted that the PIC board of directors has already approved applying for a liquor license for Generations.

The goal, she explained, is to increase activity at the center and make it attractive for functions like reunions and wedding receptions.

RDA Chair Lee Gentine noted that the council set a precedent earlier by granting a liquor license to the Plymouth Arts Center, another nonprofit group.

“I think that was a bad choice,” he stated. “I have a concern with the fact that we’re using liquor licenses with non-profits who are not generating jobs in our community and are not paying significant taxes. We’re looking at a situation where it’s not an on-going business but event to event activity.”

Gentine also worried that a license would allow Generations to compete unfairly with downtown halls and taverns for business.

“I do understand your concerns, but our intent isn’t to compete with taverns,” Wieland responded. “We look at this as an important piece to make Generations more visible and continue to make Plymouth more of a destination.”

Williams, who is the council’s representative to the PIC board, also expressed some concerns.

“I love Generations, but I don’t see where this would require you to spend (money) on the building and you wouldn’t be adding additional employees,” Williams noted. “The guidelines we’ve put together are really geared toward a significant investment in funds hopefully resulting in additional employment and consequently increasing the tax base.”

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