New proposed business registration guidelines to be brought before City Council


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) at a city meeting. Rue Simmons said she supports the city’s new proposed business registration regulations.

Kristina Karisch, City Editor

A proposed business registration fee will be brought before City Council next week, prompting concern from business owners.

Evanston’s Economic Development Committee recommended approval of a plan at their Sept. 26 meeting that would expand the scope of businesses required to pay a registration fee.

Paul Zalmezak, Evanston’s economic development manager, said at the meeting that Evanston is not capturing all of the businesses in the city due to its licensing regulations.

Current city code exempts businesses that require state licenses, as well as those that are home-based from the existing licensing program. Because of this, only about 500 storefront businesses and 400 food-service businesses fall under the city’s licensing program.

Current licensing fees range from $40 to $250 per year, depending on the type of establishment.

Because of the new licensing regulations, Zalmezak said, Evanston would be able to communicate with and be informed about many more businesses in the city. This is also intended to make it easier for city staff to let their owners know about regulations and connect them with resources.

During the meeting, commission member and architect Mary Beth Berns said the city is essentially asking business owners to “pay for the right to be in your database.”

“I don’t understand why I should have to pay to give (Evanston) the right to email me,” she said.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said during the meeting that she supports the new registration requirement, and that it would combat the fact that the city is “missing some businesses and missing opportunities to support them.”

If approved, the new licensing would take effect in October and November, and help increase revenue across the city.

Under the current licensing proposal, the city’s total earnings from non-food-based businesses are projected at $53,000 for 2018. By taxing an additional 2,500 home-based businesses and 1,400 professional services firms, the new licensing would increase the earnings to a projected $255,000 a year.

Fees for the new licensing proposal range from $25 for home-based businesses to $250 for establishments occupying more than 10,000 square feet of space.

Hecky Powell, owner of Hecky’s Barbecue and a member of the committee, opposed the proposal during the meeting, saying that business owners pay high taxes already.

“We pay a lot of other fees,” Powell told The Daily. “A lot of those nickel and dime things they’re doing are adding up. It’s making it hard for small businesses to continue to do business.”

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