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City of La Crosse looks to revert to pre-pandemic alcohol license fees

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City looks to revert back to pre-pandemic alcohol license fees

Longtime Del’s Bar bartender Sara Viner serves up a bloody mary, the specialty at the historic tavern located on the corner Third and Vine downtown in this 2019 Tribune file photo. The bar would be among many in La Crosse that would need to begin paying original fee amounts for alcohol licensing after a break during the pandemic.

The price of alcohol licenses in the city of La Crosse have been slashed for nearly two years due to the pandemic, but that could change in 2022 as officials look to revert back to original fee amounts.

The Finance & Personnel Committee passed a resolution Thursday night that restores the original pricing, but it will need final approval by the La Crosse Common Council next week.

Prices were first cut in 2020, some by as much as 90%, for bars and restaurants that were struggling and closing doors amid the pandemic, and these reduced fees were again maintained in 2021.

But the financial impact to the city has been somewhat significant, and restoring the original fees was flagged as a possible opportunity to help balance the 2022 budget.

Barb Janssen

“At that time bars were pretty much closed, as well as restaurants,” council president Barb Janssen told the committee. “The reason I would support this now is just because they are open again. Obviously some conditions have changed, but these establishments are open and operating.”

If passed next week, the fees will be restored back to what they were pre-pandemic, with an alcohol beverage operator’s license for $50 instead of $25, an intoxicating liquor license for $500 instead of the reduced $50, and a fermented malt beverage license for $100 instead of $10.

The cuts were estimated to cost the city around $155,000, part of which was made up with budget cuts. But the remaining loss plays a small part in the city’s current position where it needs to make cuts to its 2022 budget in order to avoid a massive tax hike.

The city Board of Estimates meets next week to refine and recommend its version of the 2022 Operating Budget, which will then make its way through the proper committees before it’s adopted in November.

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