Aldermen Take a Second Look at Tobacco Fees

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- It now costs Rockford businesses more money to sell cigarettes, but now some are starting to wonder whether it's really worth it.

After several complaints, Rockford aldermen are considering changing new rules put in place in October. Those rules increased the yearly renewal fee for a tobacco licenses from $145 to $1,900. A new business wanting a tobacco license will have to pay $5,000. For the approximately 70 stores in Rockford that sell both tobacco and liquor, they'll have to pony up $3,100 a year. Aldermen say these fees were put in place so the city would have a better way to regulate smoke shops. There had been concerns those type of stores were selling illegal synthetic drugs such as bath salts and K2. Aldermen say, the point isn't to punish small business owners, but to make sure the wrong kinds of businesses don't take over the city.

“I think we're going to have to delineate things a little bit differently. The businesses I think that are going to be negatively affected are not the ones we were trying to license. This was about the so called smoke shops that were selling the synthetic marijuana, the ones that were not good neighbors,” says 5th Ward Alderman Venita Hervey.

Some aldermen say they want to create a stricter set of rules for businesses that make most of their money from tobacco products. That could be very difficult to police but aldermen say it will help improve the quality of business corridors in Rockford. Store owners will be notified about the fees at the beginning of the year. Aldermen hope to make changes before those notices go out.

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