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Liquor License Holders Call Proposed Fee Increases 'Devastating'

Proposal that could double, even triple the costs of licenses would be unacceptable, beverage association official says.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz on Friday spoke to members of the county's —two of which would raise fees on certain businesses and liquor license holders.

Most of the fees have not been touched since they were instituted by the General Assembly in the 1940s and 1950s. Some date back to 1920 and 1858. Kamenetz's proposed fee hikes would bring in $2.1 million in new revenue to the county.

But Jack Milani, owner of Monahan's Pub in Gwynn Oak and co-chairman of the state Licensed Beverage Association's legislative committee, said increases to liquor license holders would hurt businesses already struggling through a tough economy.

"If you have that kind of increase to the small guy, that would be devastating," Milani said.

Milani said his members are holding on but no one sees a return to profits of three years ago, even though the economy appears to be turning around.

"I don't know if we're ever fully going to get back to those days when people went to lunch and dinner the way they used to," Milani said. "We're going to have to get used to a new normal."

But times have been tough for the county, too.

The state has cut $250 million in highway user money that should have come to Baltimore County for needed roads projects. Kamenetz said he now has to replace the funds with county money.

Additionally, county revenues fell short by nearly $132 million. This year, county revenues are on pace to of projections.

"We just want some relief here," Kamenetz told the legislators.

"It's not an easy request for any county to come to the delegation and ask them to raise fees," he said. "We're only doing it now because we're looking for funding opportunities to offset cuts."

Currently, the county collects about $1.1 million annually through business fees. If the proposed increases are enacted, the county would collect $2.3 million from a variety of businesses—chain stores, cigarette vendors, dry cleaning and laundry services, construction firms and garages, and retailers.

Increases to fees on liquor license holders—which have not been raised in nearly 70 years—would increase annual revenues from $700,000 to nearly $1.6 million. 

Combined, the hikes in business and liquor license fees would give the county $2.1 million in new revenue.

Kamenetz told members of the House delegation that it costs $700,000 to run the county Board of Liquor License Commissioners and that fees from licenses fall $200,000 short of covering costs.

The county executive said that to save money he has combined the positions of chief administrator and the head of inspections into one job. He also froze hiring for one vacant liquor inspector—leaving 13 others filled.

"We're trying to figure out ways we can recover our costs in a prudent way," Kamenetz said. "I think (increasing fees) once every 90 years is fair."

Milani said his association wants to discuss the fee increases.

"We'd be happy to sit down and work with him to try to find a way to fund the board's operations," said Milani.

"I'm not surprised they want to raise the fees," he added. "I just think it should be fair. I don't think our guys are going to think (the proposal) is fair."

K Blue February 28, 2011 at 12:59 AM
The trader licensees are also taking a big hit. Check out page 2 of the miscellaneous fee schedule. Unfortunately, the table doesn't show the number of present or projected licensees in each miscellaneous group.
Stan Modjesky February 28, 2011 at 01:12 AM
I'd missed that page altogether. It's been over ten years since I closed my book shop, and I don't remember what the traders license cost me. I'm certain that my inventory put me in the $150 to $250 range, and an increase to $375 would not have put me out of business, but I'd have been mighty annoyed, since in the last years of the business, most of my sales were out of state by way of the Web. If I were taking an increase from $800 to $2125 (with a business that size) I don't think the increase would put me out of business, but it would get passed along to my customers. Most disturbing about all these proposed fees and taxes is that nobody in the government seems seriously motivated to look at spending and make cuts by decreasing the role (=intrusion) of government into our lives.
K Blue February 28, 2011 at 01:40 AM
What I don't see here is any documented reason to raise any of these fees other than the point that time has passed and they haven't been raised. Perhaps there is a good reason for that. Perhaps that reason, with the exception of the $200k the County says it is in the hole for liquor licenses, needs to be explained in greater detail: i.e, what duties do the administration of these particular licenses have on the particular department responsible for overseeing them. Which departments are falling short? That hasn't been addressed at all. Like the billiards license. Is that really necessary? Is there a pool-sharking operation going on somewhere? Do we really need to send inspectors to check pool tables? If so, how many do we send and how often? What about cross-training inspectors like it was suggested? As presented, this appears to be a revenue opportunity only, and one way or another, these costs will be passed down. Restaurants, festivals, nonprofit events, private clubs, dry cleaners, hotels, traders, etc. Why do plumbers and fitters receive an increase, and not others? The real question is does the administration of each particular license warrant the fee? If so, raise the fee a reasonable amount.
Buzz Beeler March 01, 2011 at 03:49 AM
"We're trying to figure out ways we can recover our costs in a prudent way," Kamenetz said. "I think (increasing fees) once every 90 years is fair." Is it also fair to lay the county's vast entitlements on the backs of the taxpayers? We have no idea how much money is being spent on these issues. So much for a transparent government. Can you imagine the outcry if the taxpayers really knew the truth that they don't count, only the entitled.
DJ Groove February 28, 2012 at 01:30 PM
The companies don't pay taxes, the people do.

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