BLOOMINGTON — An increase in liquor license fees likely will be made gradually over a period of several years.
The Bloomington Liquor Commission met Thursday to discuss ideas for increasing fees and also to discuss criteria for issuing a license to neighborhood convenience stores that allow for the sale of all types of alcohol. No action was taken during the two-hour session.
Liquor license fees have not been raised since 1982 and the commission has held off serious discussion about the issue in the wake of the 2008 smoking ban and the recession.
“Now that we are past some of these issues, it’s time to get this done,” said Mayor Steve Stockton, who also by law serves as chairman of the liquor commission. Stockton is hopeful a proposal in license fee increases can go to the council this year.
Liquor licenses are renewed every year and expire Dec. 31, so the fee increases could be in place by the end of this year. The city receives about $320,000 in license fees every year.
Liquor commissioner Geoffrey Tompkins proposed doubling the fees in the first year, making a basic license fee go from $1,000 to $2,000.
“We are not talking about a crippling amount of money,” Tompkins said. Based on inflation rates over the last 29 years, Tompkins added that even doubling the rate is not enough.
Liquor commission member Marabeth Clapp said a significant increase at once would be met with a lot of opposition from bar owners. She pushed for spreading the fee increase over five years.
The commission is also looking at modifying the fee structure to include additional costs for bars and restaurants that close at 2 a.m. on weekends, operate in the downtown and have high occupancy ratings.
Those are some factors that lead to the need for extra police patrols in downtown. The city currently spends about $85,000 a year in police overtime for the downtown bars.
Earlier this month the commission delayed action on a request by Six Points Fast Stop to change its license from a beer and wine only license to all types including hard alcohol. The store will no longer have the space for gas pumps after a significant redesign of the intersection of Six Points Road, Morris Avenue and Veterans Parkway.
The commission wanted to discuss how the neighborhood should be considered when a convenience store switches to selling all types of alcohol.
Previously, the Bloomington City Council voted against a convenience store’s request after neighbors lobbied the council. The commission previously recommended the store receive the license.