Selectmen on Monday voted to waive licensing fees for restaurants and bars for the upcoming year in an effort to help them survive the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Selectman Alex Bezanson proposed the move “in recognition of the hardships that our local restaurateurs have had to endure over the past eight months and will likely continue to endure well into the foreseeable future.”
About 20 percent of the state’s restaurants, or 3,600 establishments, have permanently closed since the pandemic started, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association said last month. The National Restaurant Association says more than 100,000 bars and restaurants have closed nationwide since March.
Under state law, bars and restaurants have to annually renew one and possibly multiple local licenses required to operate. The licenses can range from a $50 common victualer renewal to a $1,200 all alcohol common victualer license renewal. There is also a $700 farmer’s pouring license, a $100 license to offer live entertainment, a $100 license to offer video games, and a $50 license to run a bowling alley.
Waiving the renewal fees is expected to cost the town about $30,000 in lost revenue, Town Manager Scott Lambiase said.
During the discussion, which took place prior to Monday’s abbreviated Special Town Meeting, Selectman Jim Connolly, who voted in favor of the policy, wondered if there would be any other hard-hit businesses or industries looking for a similar break.
Board Chairman Tim Chapin said they “will continue to look for other ways to support small businesses.”