Abbotsford city council has voted to double or even triple the cost of business licences for restaurants, bars and real estate offices. The largest hike is for liquor primary licences, required by bars or pubs, which will jump from $520 to $1,500 a year.
Liquor store business licences will be $500, up from $270.
A restaurant or food primary business, which currently pays $270, will face a $400 tab.
Real estate offices that currently pay $120 face an increase to $500 annually.
Business licence fees were last raised by four per cent in 2007 and the new increases will ensure Abbotsford fees are on par with surrounding communities, according to a city staff report.
Patrick Giesbrecht, president of Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, said some increases could be justified given the length of time since they were last adjusted, but the size of the jump is concerning.
"Such a large increase all at once is hard to absorb. Why so large of an increase in one go?" he asked.
"They're playing catch up. We advised that, in the future, the city not leave it so long between increases, so as not to create such bad optics for businesses."
Abbotsford city staff surveyed business licence fees in neighbouring communities and found several categories where the municipality's business licence fees were low in comparison. Mission had the cheapest licences with every type of business from big box stores, bars and home-based businesses paying a flat rate of $148.
However, liquor primary licences in the City of Langley, the Township of Langley, Richmond, Surrey and Chilliwack cost $4,457, $2,500, $1,902, $1,721 and $1,000 respectively.
Restaurant business licences vary widely in the Fraser Valley, with Abbotsford's new fee coming in more or less in the middle of the range from a low of $148 and a high of $946 in Richmond.
Real estate offices in Abbotsford will now have to pay $500, up from $120. But the same fees in surrounding cities vary widely, with Richmond and Surrey outlets paying more than $1,000 while those in Maple Ridge pay $500, and Chilliwack offices pay $150.
Giesbrecht noted that since a real estate office can house a large number of realtors, the increase for that sector is not as much of a hit.
However, in June when the hikes were first proposed, businessman Paul Esposito, owner of the Phoenix Lounge and Finnegan's Pub and Grill and two liquor stores in Abbotsford, said the restaurant industry can't continue to take such financial hits, suggesting higher business licence fees are another burden for a sector wounded by the HST, the province's stricter drinking and driving law and a recent increase to the minimum wage.
In 2011, business licences generated $893,771 in revenue for the city and the increases are expected to add an additional $150,000 to the total.
Business owners will be sent information about the pending fees four weeks before the expiry of their current licence.