Time for state to revisit reserve liquor license fee

THE STATE-MANDATED $10,000 FEE for reserve liquor licenses has given local officials a real hangover over the years.

The fee for new class B liquor licenses, designated reserve licenses – granting the holder the right to sell beer and liquor for on-premises consumption – was set by the state Legislature in 1997.

That fee compares to the $100 annual renewal fee on class B licenses after they are initially issued.

The $10,000 fee is a steep price for many new businesses and a lot of communities – including Plymouth – found ways over the years to rebate some or even all of the mandatory fee back to the applicant.

Even that has changed over the years. Originally, the City Council pretty much automatically rebated the fee to new license holders.

More recently, the council turned over control of the fee rebate decision to the Redevelopment Authority, with an aim to using the rebate as an incentive for new business ventures downtown and other efforts to rehabilitate existing buildings.

A new wrinkle was added to the equation when the council decided to allow non-profit groups and facilities to be granted available reserve licenses.

One of those was the Plymouth Arts Center, which was rebated its fee as a just reward for its upgraded downtown facility.

Now the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition would like to get a license for the Generations facility in order to make it more attractive for weddings, meetings and other public events.

But the new Generations building, as spectacular as it is, and the PIC don’t meet many of the criteria set by the RDA for a license rebate - consistency with downtown design guidelines, economic impact and job creation, among others.

It’s just another example of how the exorbitant reserve license fee is making life difficult for local communities and new businesses.

One of the original justifications for the $10,000 reserve license fee was to provide more control over who gets the licenses and ensure that they would be viable, positive ventures for the local community.

But there are other, more effective controls that were already in place on liquor licenses, such as the provision that a city could only issue one license for every 500 population. That provision is why the city has only one open reserve license at this time and will not have another one until Plymouth’s population grows by another 100 people or so.

There really seems to be no logical reason for a $10,000 fee for a reserve liquor license. It only provides an unnecessary hindrance to potential new businesses, is unneeded in the light of other state and local controls over liquor licenses, and creates more hardships and headaches than are necessary for local communities. It seems to be time to revisit the issue and bring new license fees back into line with other liquor license fees.

At issue:
$10,000 reserve license fee
Bottom line:
Does more harm than good

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