Framingham License Commission Votes To Eliminate Restaurant Renewal Fees For 2021

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FRAMINGHAM – In a split 3-2 vote, the 5-member Framingham License Commission voted to eliminate renewal fees for restaurants in the City of Framingham, as the business sector continues to struggle during the coronavirus pandemic.

Voting to eliminate all food, liquor, and entertainment fees restaurants needed to pay the City in order to renew their 2021 licenses were Commissioners Tiel Wadland, Sara Porter, and Laura Medrano.

Voting against the motion by Wadland, was chair Adam Barnosky and Stuart Pologe.

Last month, District 4 City Councilor Michael Cannon and District 6 Councilor Phil Ottaviani Jr. had proposed waiving the renewal fees for restaurants, which could range from $100 to a couple of thousands of dollars, as many restaurants are still trying to recover from the spring shut down, and many establishments are without outdoor dining due to the New England weather.

On November 2, the Mayor’s spokesperson told City Councilors “Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer and CFO Mary Ellen Kelley do not recommend waiving licensing fees for 2021.”

I’m grateful for the leadership of Commissioners Wadland, Porter, and Medrano, and for their support of Framingham’s small business community. Every dollar counts right now for our local restaurants and I applaud the Commission’s action,”said Cannon. “There is much work still to be done. I and my colleagues on the Council remain eager to meaningfully collaborate with the Mayor to deliver solutions that will help our small businesses recover and thrive again.”

The deadline to renew licenses is November 30. There are about 150 restaurants in the City, who could renew for 2021.

“Based on the revenue for 2020, fees could total approximately $224,000,” said The Mayor & The CFO to Councilors.

The City of Framingham’s budget is more than $300 million.

“The City should be doing whatever it can to help its small businesses and restaurants. All five members of the board overwhelmingly supported waiving licensing fees, but disagreed on procedure,” said Barnosky Tuesday morning to the news media outlet.

Pologne, based on his early statements during the Monday night meeting, seemed likely to support the Wadland motion to waive all renewal fees for restaurants in 2021.

Pologne said some license holders did not get the full benefit of their license this year, through no fault of the city not their own.

“They did not get their money’s worth,” said Commissioner Pologne.

Barnosky said he spoke to the Mayor’s office and he did not want to make a decision to waive fees without authorization from City Council and the Mayor. He said the vote would impact the City’s budget and eliminate close to $225,000 in revenue to the City of Framingham.

Barnosky also said that the fees ranging from $100 to a couple of $1,000 would not make or break a restaurant.

Wadland said her “gut” was telling her things could be shut down again, and the renewal fee money to a small restaurant is a lot.

She said the alternative was to not help the restaurants and some could close, and then the city gets no money from them.

Late in the meeting, Pologne said he preferred if the “restaurants had a little skin in the game.”

He suggested instead of waiving all the fees for 2021, that the restaurants pay 25% of the fees due on November 30.

“The license commission does not review the City’s annual budget and it shouldn’t unilaterally make impactful budgetary decisions without the consensus of the Mayor’s office and City Council, which the Commission did not have,” said Barnosky Tuesday morning. “And while I disagree on the procedure, I am pleased there will be some relief headed towards the city’s restaurant owners in what will undoubtedly be a challenging winter ahead.”

After the Mayor’s refusal to eliminate fees, Councilor Cannon proposed a compromise and suggested the city extend the deadline for payment of the renewal fees from November 30 to June 30. That way the City of Framingham still collects its money during the current fiscal year, but restaurants could get through the winter and the pandemic, hopefully.

Barnosky said he had no interested in changing the fee due date. He said it was “more trouble than it is worth.”

Yesterday, the Mayor and the CFO said it would be willing to reduce fees by 25% for restaurants.

Cannon told the License Commissioners that is not enough, and said the 25% number was arbitrary.

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