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Council agrees to eliminate obsolete business licenses and permits

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City Council members have agreed there is no need for business licenses and permits for businesses such as dance halls, auctions, pawnbrokers, billiards parlors, video arcades and transient retail businesses.

They agreed it’s time to eliminate obsolete and outdated sections that still exist in the City Code pertaining to business licenses and permits for those types of businesses because, in some cases, they fall under state General Business Law.

As for dance halls, the Watertown City Council adopted a law in 1949 that requires them to obtain a license to operate in the city. But city officials cannot remember the last time a dance hall operated in the city.

In September, City Clerk Ann M. Saunders recommended making changes after noticing that several provisions are no longer necessary because of the passage of time, community need or the fact that they now belong under state control.

On Tuesday night, the Watertown City Council went through several chapters of the City Code pertaining to business permits and licenses to figure out which ones no longer apply. For instance, some of the old laws still involve requiring permits for going-out-of-business sales, liquidation sales, auctions and smoke or water damage sales and set a $500 fee for the first month and $50 for a 30-day renewal.

Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said he has wondered why the fee exists that covers those type of sales.

“It always struck me as strange that if someone’s going out of business, you’re going to add insult to injury by imposing a fine on them,” he said.

But the city must keep this one because it protects consumers, City Attorney Robert J. Slye said.

“I think we have to have it on the books,” he said. “This is one we actually do participate in.”

Council members also discussed at length whether there should be a fee for transient vendors. The city charges $300 for the first three days and $100 for each additional day of the sale.

It was put into place years ago to discourage temporary sales from competing with permanent businesses. But Mrs. Saunders said it’s too hard to find out whether they are occurring in the city.

Council members agreed it should be eliminated from City Code.

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