No more liquor license refunds in East Bethel

The East Bethel City Council voted 4-1 Feb. 20 to eliminate conditions in the city’s liquor license ordinance under which a license holder can receive a pro-rated refund. Councilmember Robert DeRoche voted against the change.

Pertaining to refunds, the newly amended ordinance simply states, “No part of the fee paid for any license issued under this article shall be refunded.” The former version had followed that sentence with a list of exceptions including destruction of premises, licensee illness, licensee death and change in legal status of the city as potential conditions for a pro-rated refund.

According to City Administrator Jack Davis, the change would remove any confusion or interpretation concerning conditions for refunds. “As further justification for deletion of this section of the code, all the staff expenses for permit issuance are upfront costs and, depending on the permittee, these costs can be substantial,” Davis said.

“Am I to understand that under no conditions will we give any liquor license fees back?” DeRoche asked. When told that was correct, DeRoche said, “I don’t know about that… What if the place burns down or there’s a natural disaster?”

City Attorney Mark Vierling said that though he appreciates that the council wanting to be compassionate, “practically speaking, it’s been a really long time since I’ve seen a liquor license held by an individual as opposed to a corporate entity.

“From a matter of liability, people just don’t own them in their own name,” Vierling said. “They are usually held in the name of a corporation or LLC or some other entity.”

With that being the case, a death becomes a “non-event” in terms of the liquor license, he said.

In addition, Vierling said that  total destruction of the license holder’s premises would usually be an insurable loss. “My sense is that [the city’s liquor license] ordinance was probably drafted in another era where people held the license as opposed to corporations, which we don’t see anymore,” he said.