City May Raise Liquor Fees

Commission Could Increase License Cost for Stores by 5%

After months of discussion between city officials and local vendors, Cambridge appears on the verge of approving an increase in liquor licensing fees.

The new fee is scheduled for final consideration at tonight's meeting of the Cambridge Licensing Commission. If it wins the expected approval, the plan will raise fees for retailers by 5 percent as of January 1 and by another 5 percent in 1993.

The rate hike, the first in four years, will probably not be passed on to consumers, say Cambridge retailers.

"It's not going to dramatically affect the cost of doing business, but it's difficult to tell," said Joseph A. Martignetti, a member of the Fee Advisory Board and an owner of Lanes and Games. "I don't think that higher prices will be passed on to the consumer."

Price Increase?

City officials contend that the increase was necessary because the present fee, between $2800 to $4800 a year depending on the type of liquor sold, has not kept pace with rising administrative costs.

"We have experienced 20 percent inflation in the last four years, and we have not touched the liquor license fee," said James T. McDavitt, chair of the Cambridge Licensing Commission.

The Commission has been meeting since July with the Fee Advisory Board, a group of 20 local liquor merchants, in order to reach an agreement.

"We sent notices about a fee increase to everybody in the area," said McDavitt. "They all had the opportunity to become members of the Fee Advisory Board."

Harvard Square liquor retailers contacted agreed with McDavitt that the the increase is fair.

What's The Buzz

"The fee hasn't been raised in years, and a 5 percent increase shouldn't do much," said one local merchant. "I doubt the increase will affect prices."

Chris Lyons, the manager of Varsity Liquors on Eliot Street, also dismissed the impact of fee increase. But she remains concerned about a raise in the state liquor tax, which would directly affect consumers.

"We're waiting to see what the new governor and state legislature will do," she said.