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LETTER TO EDITOR: Beer license price increase hurting restaurants

Dear Editor:

The year 2020 was a heck of a year. The United States of America came face to face with a global pandemic for the first time since the Spanish Flu in 1918. While the epidemiology of a H1N1 virus and a Covid-19 virus are very different, the economic impact has many similarities. 

More than 100,000 small businesses have failed. Economists estimate that as many as two-thirds of those may be restaurants. According to the Small Business Administration, a small business is one with fewer than 250 employees. Given that, as many as 5 million restaurant jobs may have been lost last year.

In the midst of this crisis, the Troup County Board of Commissioners and the Troup County manager decided it was time for a 150% increase in the annual retail Troup County Beer License fee. Heck, we haven’t had one in years, they said.  If there are 100 small business in the county that have to buy this license from us, we can get another $30,000 from them, they decided.  As if the $20,000 they already take is not enough.

When one of the largest employment sectors of our economy has its back against the wall, knees buckling, the Troup County administration does what? This year. Really?

For those who don’t know much about the restaurant business, it is a capital intensive, thin margin business … if well run in a healthy economy. When a thin margin business has to absorb price increases from vendors or increases in fees or taxes from local, state and federal governments, it can be devastating.  To “pass through” a rate increase like we have experienced this year, we will have to double the price of the beers we sell and not lose a customer.  As loyal as our customers are, I am not sure they will accept a 100% price increase.

Most restaurateurs I know wouldn’t dream of trying to levy that kind of price increase. We often think more along the lines of 2-3% annual price increases. This year we chose not to increase prices at all at the Hog Heaven. 

If you would like to see more thoughtful management at the county level, please call (706) 883-1610 and share your thoughts. Maybe they will listen to you and our citizens, and think about the impact of their decisions on the small business employers in Troup County.  We are the lifeblood of the community. Your community. Please consider us.

Mike McCollum

LaGrange