Several Hingham restaurant owners sent the Selectmen a clear message -- not to double the current all-alcoholic common victualler annual license fees -- from $2,000 to $4,000 as recently proposed, as reported by wicked local hingham.
Representatives/owners from Scarlet Oak Tavern, Salsa's, Burtons Grill, Liberty Grill, Eat Well (Tosca, Star's, Tosca Caffe), the Square Cafe, Ocean Kai, and the Allston-based Restaurant & Business Alliance attended a recent meeting when the issue appeared on the agenda. Most spoke -- none in favor of the $2,000 increase, with a few open to a gradual increase over time.
A recent survey of 19 comparable communities found that Hingham's all-alcoholic common victualler license fees are far lower than those of some of the other towns.
As a result, Town Administrator Ted Alexiades recommended increasing the annual fee in that liquor license category only.
This is part of an ongoing effort to look at what the town is charging for various services to ensure associated costs are covered.
Salsa's owner David Littlefield said he was "blindsided" when he received a letter from the Selectmen -- sent to each of the 26 establishments in Hingham that hold that particular type of license to inform them that a fee increase is under consideration. "This year has been tough," he said. He opposed the proposed hike. "Restaurants are part of the fabric of the community."
Liberty Grill owner Christian Thompson strongly opposed the proposed increase. "I feel that restaurants are a vehicle that generates revenue for the town," he said, referring in part to meals tax funds. "I not only disapprove of the proposed increase, but I also think the fee should be rolled back."
A number of restaurant owners/operators said that last winter's snowstorms and the current Red Sox playoffs and other sports events have significantly cut into their business.
Selectmen Chair Bruce Rabuffo announced that the board received a letter from Hingham Attorney Michael Nuesse on behalf of a number of local restaurateurs who are concerned about the proposed hike.
"These business owners/operators feel a more thoughtful and careful review of any cost increase to any liquor license issued by the town is warranted," the letter states.