Wilmington proposes business fee hikes amid coronavirus crisis
From The News Journal
Business owners across Wilmington face a hike in their annual license fees, while also facing the challenges of a pandemic.
City officials proposed an ordinance Thursday night to the City Council to raise fees for nearly all kinds of businesses that are licensed to operate in Wilmington, from contractors to financial institutions.
If passed by the City Council, the hike would take effect immediately, according to the legislation.
The proposal has been in the works for months, said John Rago, deputy chief of staff for policy and communications for Mayor Mike Purzycki. The city has not updated its fees in more than 15 years, he said.
The proposal was made separately from Purzycki’s proposed budget for the next fiscal year.
Some Wilmington business owners said the proposal was made with bad timing as bars, hair salons, some retail stores and numerous other nonessential businesses were shuttered either by the governor’s order or economic realities during a nationwide coronavirus outbreak. Restaurants are limited to takeout operations only.
“I’m hanging on off a prayer,” said Abundance Child, owner of the Riverfront vegan eatery Drop Squad Kitchen.
Sales have dropped more than 60% in the past week, she said, and the restaurant is making just enough to still pay staff, rent and utilities.
The city is proposing a more than 50% increase in the license fee, from $181 to $300 for restaurants.
“That’s a lot,” she said. “It’s just poor timing and poor judgment. Why would you have a 50% increase in a time of depression?”