Whately Select Board opts to keep current license fees 

Staff Writer
Published: 10/19/2020 2:16:25 PM

WHATELY — After debating on Wednesday whether license fees — alcohol, food or other — should be reduced by any percentage for the upcoming year, the Select Board ultimately voted in favor of keeping fees at the current rate.

The board agreed, instead, that businesses with concerns about their respective licenses can appear before the board on an individual basis.

The debate follows the decision of a number of nearby towns, including Sunderland and Hadley, that have reduced licensing fees for 2021, particularly for restaurants and bars, as they have operated at limited capacity or been closed entirely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Select Board member Joyce Palmer-Fortune, however, said she would rather see more discussion on the issue before setting anything in stone.

“I’m not against some relief on the fees,” she said. “I don’t want to make a blanket decision now.”

Palmer-Fortune added she was not ready to put new numbers on the license fees without further information.

“It isn’t unreasonable to stick with this. … Our license fees are not based on how well a business is doing,” she said.

But Select Board member Jonathan Edwards argued in favor of reducing the fees by some percentage, in recognition of the fact certain businesses “have taken a hit” as a result of the pandemic.

“To not reduce that type of an establishment by some percentage, I think is kind of unfair,” he said. “I actually do think that if something is not open because they’ve been banned to be open, I don’t see why we can charge them that license fee when they’re not able to use their license.”

Edwards said he wasn’t comfortable with the current fees, knowing the potential for businesses not being open at full capacity come January.

Frederick Orloski, chairman of the Select Board, agreed with Palmer-Fortune, offering the suggestion that businesses with concerns about the fees the town is charging come before the board.

The board voted 2-1, with Edwards voting against, to keep the current licensing fees, with the understanding that businesses can approach the board if they feel a “hardship reduction” should be entertained.


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