The Natick Select Board is readying for its annual review of business license fees, which currently include everything from $2 for fortune tellers to several thousand dollars for restaurants and other establishments selling booze. Discussion, originally slated for this week, is now slated for the Select Board’s Nov. 18 meeting.
While this generally might not be the stuff of great public interest, what makes the 2021 license fee review noteworthy is that the town is considering whether to slash fees 25% or 50% in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that has hit restaurants and bars hard.
Natick has taken a broad look at how much other communities charge for fees vs. what Natick charges. It has taken a look at what more than two dozen other communities have done in the way of cutting fees in light of economic realities. Some communities, like Framingham, have not decreased licensing fees. Others such as Needham have cut fees in half for businesses that sell alcohol for consumption on premises.
Natick has laid out in a spreadsheet (embedded below) what license cuts might look like revenue-wise for the town. If it cut license fees in half for what are known as Section 12 businesses, its revenue would be estimated to fall from about $130K to $65K for the year from this source.
Some might argue that’s a small price to pay to help support local restaurants, especially as we head into the indoor-dining-only season.
The fee review isn’t all about restaurants and bars. Fees for package stores, dealerships, and other businesses are also under review.
The town has taken a number of steps this year to help Natick businesses during the pandemic, from helping restaurants offer expanded outdoor dining to offering a microenterprise grant program to very small businesses.