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County waives fees for restaurants, bars


Last updated 2/2/2021 at 3:56pm

El Paso County officials voted last week to waive several fees for restaurants, bars and taverns in an effort to provide economic relief to an industry impacted by COVID-19.

The El Paso County Board of Health voted unanimously to waive 2021 license fees for full-service retail food establishments (RFE), bars and taverns in El Paso County.

The Board’s action was made possible by Senate Bill 20B-001, which was signed into law in December 2020 and aims to help alleviate the financial impacts of COVID-19 on the restaurant industry. With the passing of this bill, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment directed local counties to waive the license renewal fee for specific license types to include full-service restaurants (zero to 200+ seats), bars, and taverns. 

Local impact 

This bill provides financial assistance to 1,568 (57 percent) of the 2,733 RFEs in El Paso County, resulting in over $620,000 in waived fees. 

RFEs that were not included in this waiver include grocery stores, convenience stores, mobile units and businesses with limited food preparation that are not bars or taverns. The state legislature had determined that these types of businesses were less likely to suffer critical negative impacts from the capacity and indoor dining restrictions imposed by state public health orders. 

Background and additional information  

Retail food licenses are renewed annually with fee amounts determined by their license category. 

License categories are established at the time of original licensing. 

Reduced seating capacity due to COVID-19 does not result in a license change. 

Timelines and next steps 

Establishments that have received fee waivers will receive a letter outlining this information along with their license by April. 

For establishments that have not received fee waivers and must pay their license renewal, the payment deadline has been extended to March 31, 2021, and these establishments have been sent notification letters. 

All 2020 licenses have been extended to cover the delay in license distribution.  

More detailed information on this process can be found on El Paso County Public Health’s website under the retail food establishment page. 

Meanwhile, some local liquor licensing fees for establishments in unincorporated El Paso County will be waived starting retroactive to Dec. 7, 2020, through Dec. 7, 2021, due to the impact of COVID-19. The Board of County Commissioners, which serves as the Local Licensing Authority, approved a Resolution 21-33 at last week’s meeting authorizing the waiver of specific fees for new and renewal licenses, according to the fee schedule.

“Whether it’s the business relief fund, financial assistance to the enterprise zone or helping the non-profits that support our businesses, El Paso County remains committed to doing everything we can to help our local small businesses survive the pandemic,” said Board Chair Stan VanderWerf. “While the dollar amount isn’t large, this action demonstrates our continued support for each industry that is negatively impacted by COVID, and our desire to use every tool we have to help those who are struggling. I appreciate Clerk and Recorder Broerman and the staff members who got this program in front of us for a vote.” 

The county’s resolution is in tandem with the provisions of Senate Bill 20B-001 passed by the State Legislature and signed by Gov. Jared Polis. The bill provides for the State Licensing Authority to waive certain state license, application, renewal and COVID-19 modification fees for the period Dec. 7, 2020–Dec. 7, 2021. The Board of County Commissioners as the Local Licensing Authority intends to provide similar relief for county citizens by waiving the same county liquor licensing fees.

“I strongly support this action by the Board which will provide economic relief to businesses affected by the continuing pandemic,” said Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman. “Our Clerk to the Board Department in my office administers the liquor licensing process for the Board. We concur this waiver is necessary to help bolster our community’s economy and help individual owners.”

There are currently 96 liquor licenses issued by the county. Data over the past five years of application fees and liquor license fees in unincorporated El Paso County show an average yearly total of $26,581.75. There will be refunds for qualifying businesses that submitted and paid fees since the retroactive start date of Dec. 7, 2020, but these are minimal.

People who currently hold county liquor licenses or plan to apply for a license during the year should contact the Clerk to the Board Department in the Clerk and Recorder’s Office. This also applies to individuals who may qualify for a refund. Please email [email protected] or call (719) 520-6430.


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