Unhappy bar and restaurant owners plan to overturn big fees

Unhappiness with the increases in the fees for liquorpatentes are growing. And in Heredia a group formed to modify the law is spilling over the boundaries of the province.

Other restaurants and bars owners have filed appeals with the Sala IV constitutional court.

Michael Cannon of Poás Volcano Lodge reported Monday that he has been hit with a  28,800 percent increase. That, of course is because he was paying just 10,000 colons a year, about $20, to the Municipalidad de Heredia. Now he has to pay 360,000 colons every three months.

Cannon and others were responding to a story Mondayrecounting the plight of the owners of a small restaurant in Playa Chiquita who faces similar fees.

Ronald Villalobos, who operates Mariscos y Más in Heredia Centro, said he has organized about 60 patente holders under the banner of the Cámera de Patentados de Heredia. He said his group seeks a political solution to modify the big increase in fees and is working with Mariela Alfaro, a lawmaker with Movimiento Libertario, to draft appropriate changes.

Villalobos said that he will be in Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí Wednesday for a meeting with patente holders there. He expects to see many more business owners.

As Cannon noted in an email, the new liquor law went into effect Aug. 7 “to the great and irritated surprise of those of us who have a license to sell wines, beers and spirits.” He was told to start paying the fee in October.

“In my case I put a recurso de amparo in the Sala Cuarta and have refused to pay the tax,’ he said, “and have persuaded the other patente holders of Vara Blanca to do likewise,

Other bar owners said they thought that the new fee was one reason some popular drinking establishments and restaurants went out of business.  Of course, the economy also is a problem, and some cited the parade of new taxes sponsored by the Laura Chinchilla administration.

Daniel Gibson of the popular Hotel Tres Banderas in Manuel Antonio said that he is in the process of trying to sublet the liquor part of the business or perhaps close it completely. He also noted that businesses that are operating on a concession in the maritime zone also have faced meteoric rises in their fees, in one case from $200 a year to $3,000, he said. He predicted a long court fight.

Villalobos noted that the amount collected by the municipalities varies depending on the type of business. There also appears to be differences depending in which municipality the business is located. One bar owner in a beach community said his fee was less than $100 for the year.

The amount usually mentioned as a quarterly fee is 380,000 colons which is $770 at the current rate of exchange.

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