CHAMPAIGN – It will get more expensive to sell a beer in Champaign during the next four years if a program to increase liquor license fees continues.
Whether that means consumers will have to pay more for a cocktail with dinner or a night out at the bar has yet to be determined, but some Champaign business owners say the increases are not going to drain their profits.
The higher fee schedule was introduced last year as one way to deal with a $6 million budget gap, and in a 7-2 vote Tuesday, the city council reaffirmed its support for the program as the city readies itself to adopt another tight budget.
The liquor licensing and enforcement process is expensive, said Deputy Liquor Commissioner Teri Legner. The proposed increases will generate more than $78,000 in extra revenues from about 180 liquor licensees during the next four years.
"It's just one more frustration that's going to happen," said Bob Osiek, who owns Esquire Lounge in downtown Champaign. "And whether it ruffles somebody's feather the wrong way, it's going to keep happening."
Council member Deborah Frank Feinen, who supported the increases Tuesday night, said she still worries for small to mid-sized businesses.
"It's as fair as it can be," Feinen said. "I'm struggling with whether or not to support it, but I also recognize that someone has to pay the cost of this program."
Still, liquor license fees will remain lower in Champaign than Urbana.
"From seeing other cities and other states, it's (Champaign licensing fees) still pretty reasonable, a little aggressive for the size of the town," said Jamie Trainis, managing partner at Biaggi's on Neil Street.