By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Leader & Times
Most business owners are aware there is a city ordinance on the books requiring all businesses to obtain a business license, which costs $5, in order to conduct business within the city limits of Liberal. This ordinance pertains to all businesses within the City of Liberal regardless if they do business on a full-time or part-time basis.
The ordinance was passed by the Liberal City Commission in March of 2009 and went into effect Jan. 1, 2010. The licenses, however, do expire after one year. City staff asks all businesses to renew or obtain a license no later than Feb. 1 before notifications and fines become an issue.
“We are going to hope that everyone comes in before Feb. 1, that is when we are going to start enforcing it,” Deputy City Clerk Alicia Hidalgo said. “The ordinance was passed in March of 2009. It went into effect last year. We haven’t had too many people really complain about it, so that is always a good thing.”
Hidalgo said the process has been made as simple as possible in order to allow for the least amount of inconvenience to business owners.
“They can even drop their application and fee in the water slot, they don’t even have to come in,” Hidalgo said. “We will mail them their receipt, we will mail them their license. We can mail the application out to them, we can fax it or they can get it off of the website and send it in. Go to www.cityofliberal.org, then to city government, then to city administration, then a link that says license instruction, they click on that and it has a brochure, our ordinance and an application.”
Anyone wishing to mail in the $5 fee and application can send it to P.O. Box 2199 and specify “attention business licensing” on the envelope. For further questions regarding the licensing process, business owners can call city hall at 626-2201.
Mayor Tim Long said the licensing process not only helps the City of Liberal keep track of what businesses are operating within the city, but it makes sure there is a level playing field for all businesses within the City of Liberal.
“It does make sure that everybody has their sales tax numbers, their federal ID numbers – that they are legitimate businesses,” Long said. “It keeps the playing field fair and competitive and keeps all businesses accounted for. It helps the city keep track of all of the businesses in town.
“It serves a lot of purposes,” he continued. “I think it is great, too. It is inconvenient for business owners to have to come in and do this, but I think it is very important that we do it as a community, so that we track everything and make sure everyone is doing business the right way.”
Long added that all businesses, even those that set up shop on the weekends or specific times of the year are required to obtain a business license by paying the $5 fee.
“Any of your vendors that you see coming in town for the weekend that are setting up shop on the corners or in parking lots, they have to apply to get one, also,” he said. “Any of your food vendors, people selling products of any sort have to have it, even if they are only here on a temporary basis.”
City Manager Mark Hall explained that beginning on Feb. 1, fines will come into play if a business cannot produce a valid business license. However, following each fine, the business will have 30 days to remedy the violation by obtaining a license.
“The first offense is $50 and they have 30 days to become compliant, the second time it will be a $100 fine and then 30 more days to come into compliance, the third is $250 to $500,” Hall said. “So, it goes in 30 day periods.”
Hall said businesses were very cooperative last year, the first year of the business license ordinance. He asks that all business step up to the plate and make sure their businesses are, again, in compliance with the ordinance.
“Over 800 businesses registered last year,” Hall said. “What we would like to do is we would like businesses to go ahead and fill out the form again, and that is just in case something has changed. It is just $5 and that is it.
“It is not meant to put a burden on businesses,” Hall continued. “It helps us not only with economic development, but helps us make sure there is a level playing field for the businesses that do business here. We appreciate all that do business here in Liberal.”