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Private clubs hit with big liquor-permit fee at worst time

Only government can turn something so unambiguous as An Act Concerning Streamlining the Liquor Control Act SB647 into a complete disaster.

The act was meant to assist wineries, distillers and breweries broaden their base and assist them in selling more product. At face value, a worthwhile act. Buried in the bill, which obviously went unread, is the consolidation of liquor permits for on-premise locations, which includes clubs such as the Elks, VFW, American Legion and Moose.

With this consolidation, comes a massive increase in the cost of the permit.

Prior to the passage of this act, a club permit was $300 per year. Now it is $2,000 per year, a 666% increase in one year! Even for Connecticut, that's a bit steep. The reality is, it has become a financial disaster for private clubs trying to survive in Connecticut, most of which are already in financial freefall due to draconian COVID-19 restrictions. For most clubs, it's a struggle to pay the monthly bills just to stay afloat and keep the doors open.

Club permits are allocated to organizations that are subject to the same taxation as the private sector, yet provide tens of thousands of dollars to charitable groups in their communities. In most cases, all dollars after expenses and capital costs for these clubs are donated back to the community. Organizations that benefit from their benevolence are groups such as Little Leagues, homeless shelters, food pantries, meal centers and so much more. The monetary donations are only part of what private clubs give back; many community groups use their facilities for free meeting space and during the COVID pandemic, many clubs have opened their doors and facilities to serve those in need on a large-scale basis.

An attempt was made to fix this problem during the recent special legislative session; however, that failed because there were "shinier" more politically correct issues that captured the General Assembly’s attention.

There is still time for the legislature to act and repair the damage they have done to these private clubs. Some permit renewals are due soon along with the $2,000 fee. During these current times, when clubs have been unable to earn, it is extremely counterproductive to tax them at an increase of 600%-plus.

Perhaps returning to a business model that worked well in the 1920s and 1930s is another option.

When your local team or group is no longer receiving donations and no longer has space to meet or celebrate, look no further than your local state legislator.

Keith J. Robbins lives in New London and is a permittee for a Club Liquor Permit.



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