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Sunderland Select Board approves license fee reduction for bars, restaurants

  • The Sunderland Town Offices on School Street. STAFF FILE PHOTO/ANDY CASTILLO



Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

SUNDERLAND — The Select Board has approved reducing certain license fees for local food and beverage establishments in consideration of the pandemic’s impact on their ability to successfully conduct business.

The board voted unanimously this month to reduce by 30% fees for on-site all alcohol licenses, on-site wine and malt licenses, and associated common victualer licenses. For businesses that derive their sole income from alcohol — which are closed under the state’s current COVID-19 orders — license fees are reduced by the same percentage for the first 30% of the year, and prorated after that.

“If they still aren’t open (after the first 30% of the year), we prorate it from that point,” Town Administrator Geoffrey Kravitz explained.

The reduced fees would be for the coming year, he said. Businesses will be informed over the next month, as license applications are due in November.

Each year, the town collects fees for several licenses, including liquor licenses, on-site food consumption licenses, dance and entertainment licenses, and auto dealer licenses.

“In a normal year, we’d expect to collect about $13,330 from all of these fees,” Kravitz noted.

Of the license types that will be impacted, the town has seven all-alcohol licenses at $1,400 each, three wine and malt licenses at $700 each, and 20 common victualer licenses at $50 each, according to Kravitz.

After a brief discussion on which fees the Select Board should target in particular, members agreed any reduction in fees should be prioritized to restaurants and drinking establishments that have been hurt by the pandemic.

“Everybody’s been impacted — there’s no softball around that,” said Select Board member Scott Bergeron. “But the ability to sell a car with a Type 2 license is a far cry different than being closed for the year, essentially. … It’s a lot easier, in my mind, for them to have customers than it is to have ‘insert name here’ of a dining establishment that was impacted, or in this case, a couple of the all alcohol on-site licenses that are still closed.”

Select Board member Tom Fydenkevez agreed, noting his concern was primarily for businesses that have had to operate with limited capacity, or in some cases, not at all.

Fydenkevez added that the expected revenue loss could be covered by the Select Board’s already approved cut in salary.

“Somebody’s going to say, ‘Well, how are you going to pay for that?’” he said. “Well, take it out of the salary we’re not getting this year.”

He also called it a “small token” of appreciation for what businesses in town “do for the community every single day.”

Bergeron noted the vote should be seen as setting a precedent.

“I want to make sure that it’s understood that businesses can, if they feel they’re out of the category, reach out and we can talk,” he said.