To offset rising office costs, the Durango Liquor License Authority voted Tuesday to increase liquor license fees for the first time.
The fee for a new license to sell liquor in Durango will rise from $500 to $875. The cost to renew a license, which must be done yearly, will rise from $50 to $100.
The increases coincide with a 2007 state statute that allows local jurisdictions to raise liquor license fees based on a tiered, three-year outline. Before 2007, license fees were set by the Colorado Department of Revenue.
The statute allows the city to raise the fee for a new license to $1,000 in July 2010, but the authority voted to delay discussion of an additional increase until next summer.
City Clerk Amy Phillips presented the three-member board with spreadsheets detailing the costs of processing an application. Durango granted three new licenses in 2008, spending $1,000.62 on 17 different costs, with money spread across six city departments. To process one liquor license, Phillips said 24.5 miles are logged by city employees. The cost for police background inspections ran $37.26 per license.
The spreadsheets were intended to illustrate that the city is not making money selling alcohol. According to the clerk's office, the city lost $25,000 in office costs in 2008 licensing liquor-selling establishments and events. Under the increases, the city stands to lose $10,000 per year.
Authority board member and former City Manager Bob Ledger moved that the proposed $250 increase for a $500 transfer license be reduced to $100.
Board member Leonard Atencio opposed reducing the fee because it was the only liquor license fee that was budgeted to bring in revenue.
"If we're losing money, shouldn't we keep around the cost that's helping pay for all the rest of them?" Atencio said.
City Attorney David Smith said it was a good idea for a local government to keep the cost of licensing liquor in the red, in part to avoid negative public perceptions.
The city approved seven $500 transfer licenses in 2008.
The fee to license a special event was increased from $25 to $100. Phillips said the city spends about $160 to license one special event, with the largest chunk of that the $62 the police department spends to post verifications. The city licensed 90 special events in 2008.
"A hundred bucks sounds very reasonable to me," said Ledger. "I think the level of the fees will not present a hardship."