Alcohol license fee increases that were put on hold last year after several Richmond County business owners complained are moving forward.
The fees, charged to businesses that sell alcohol by the bottle or by the drink, haven't gone up since 2006, according to Licensing and Inspections Director Rob Sherman. The proposed increases are expected to generate $94,617 in new revenue annually for the city's general fund.
The fees are going up on a bracketed scale based on building occupancy. For restaurants and bars certified to serve 100 or fewer people, the increase is 3 percent; up to 200, 5 percent and up to 300, 7 percent.
For restaurants and bars that serve 300 or more people and for retailers and wholesalers without on-premises consumption, the increase is 10 percent. Fees for Sunday sales, catering and single-event licenses also will go up.
Selling alcohol “is a regulated business, for a lot of reasons,” Sherman said. The businesses make revenue off selling alcohol and get that privilege in exchange for paying the fee, he said.
Walter Clay, the owner of Raes Coastal Cafe, was skeptical about the increases last year and remains so.
“My feeling now is the same as it was when they tried to go up at the last minute last year,” Clay said. “Last year was the time to have the dialogue for 2012, that way we would have all year to plan for the increase.”
The increases, if approved by the Augusta Commission, go into effect Dec. 1, but business owners do have an opportunity to provide feedback. Sherman has scheduled a public hearing on the increases at 11 a.m. today in the commission chamber on the eighth floor of Augusta Municipal Building, 530 Greene St.