Amherst cuts license fees by 40 percent for bars, restaurants

  • A view of Main Street in downtown Amherst. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2020 7:21:49 AM

AMHERST — Restaurants, bars and other establishments that serve alcohol for on-site consumption will be getting a significant reduction in annual license renewal fees.

The Board of License Commissioners recently voted unanimously, following a request from Town Manager Paul Bockelman and input from the Amherst Business Improvement District, to cut by 40% the fees for these on-premise alcoholic beverages licenses.

BID Executive Director Gabrielle Gould said the one-time reduction in these fees is a critical boost of support from the town during the pandemic.

“Winter is on the way, we have no idea what that is going to bring, but the vote is a definite lifeline and one that was greatly appreciated from every restaurant I reached out to,” Gould said.

Though the state has allowed beer and wine, as well as cocktails, to be served in a to-go format, Gould said that most customers are not ordering drinks with their takeout meals. She said some restaurants are estimating alcohol sales at just 2% of prepandemic levels.

In a memo, Bockelman wrote that restaurants are among businesses hardest hit during the governor’s stay-at-home order in the spring, and continue to be affected by reduced seating capacities.

“The town has explored and implemented numerous strategies to support restaurants including expansion of outdoor dining space, purchasing and setting up picnic tables, and securing grant funds for further enhancements including outdoor heaters,” Bockelman wrote. “The reduction of the alcohol on-premise license fee is another strategy aimed at providing financial relief to this important component of our local economy.”

Based on the current chart of license fees, the most expensive, the all-alcohol permit for restaurants, inns and other establishments, will drop from $3,500 to $2,100. Other changes include the all-alcohol club license going from $1,500 to $900, wine and malt for restaurants, clubs and on-premise moving from $1,000 to $600 and the all-alcohol veterans club license going from $750 to $450.

The town stands to lose about $40,000, Bockelman said, depending on how many license renewals are submitted in November. This has already been figured into budget planning, Bockelman said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at

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