Reading, MA — In an effort to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 situation on local restaurants, the Select Board voted 4-0 to reduce the liquor licensing fees for restaurants and clubs in town for the calendar year 2021. According to Town Manager Robert LeLacheur, these fees have already been paid by the businesses, so that the relief will come in the form of refunds to the licensees.
Select Board chair Mark Dockser explained his reasoning stating, “[Restaurants] have lost out dramatically on the number of patrons [during COVID].” Member Karen Herrick continued, opining, “[Local Restaurants] are key to our downtown success.”
The typical fee for each of the 13 restaurants in town with all-alcohol licenses is $3,700. For 2021, this fee has been reduced to $1,000. The one local restaurant with a beer and wine only license will see its fee reduced from $2,700 to $750. The three clubs licensed in town will have fees reduced from $1,300 to $300, and the one store with a special legislative alcohol license will have its fee reduced to $600 from a typical $2,500, assuming this reduction is deemed legal by Town Counsel.
Members Carlo Bacci and Vanessa Alvarado urged eliminating the fees for 2021, with Alvarado noting that over half of the restaurants in question are small, locally-owned businesses.
“It’s going to be a long winter for [these restaurants],” Bacci argued.
The fee reductions ultimately voted upon were the result of a compromise between the no-fee position and Dockser and Herrick’s position. They supported the idea of reduced fees, but not the elimination of the fees altogether. The one-year only fees are approximately a 75% reduction in the price for the license. LeLacheur reminded the board that the lost revenue from the fees will be in the current year’s budget, but will have little effect on what happens in Fiscal Year 2022.
The Select Board also spent considerable time discussing its plans for liaison responsibilities and connections with department heads. Members of the board will be reaching out to schedule informal discussions with department heads and report back to the board in January. The board postponed a discussion on its communications policy until policy author, member Anne Landry, could be present.
The Select Board adjourned at 9:00 pm.