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Restaurants could have to pay more to stay open in Sangamon County

(WICS)

Restaurants across Sangamon County could soon have to pay more for licenses to operate.

There are more than 1,000 businesses that are regulated by the Sangamon County Department of Public Health.

There weren't any restaurant owners at Thursday night's public meeting which discussed raising annual fees of every business that serves food except for non-for-profits.

Many restaurants pay $825 each year to the health department for licenses to operate.

Under a proposal, that cost would rise to $944 in three years.

The Department of Public Health said the money is needed to keep up with the cost of health inspections.

Many restaurant owners said they already pay the health department too much money.

"I was shocked because I didn't know," said Goldie Harris, general manager of Cook's Spice Rack & Chili. "I thought they were voting tonight. Now that I know they're not voting tonight, that gives us restaurant owners time to get together and ask 'why are you doing this? You're already getting a lot of money from us.'"

Director of Public Health Jim Stone said for many restaurants, the fee increase amounts to about a dime per day.

He said the extra fees would help restaurants in the long term, because it would make sure health inspections continue to be as thorough as possible.

"To get to a healthy community, it's nice to have a healthy economy as well," Stone said. "If we have establishments that are thriving and doing good business, and they have a lot of customers, then that's where we want to be."

If the health department's changes are approved next month by the Sangamon County Board, some businesses such as bars that serve snacks and frozen pizzas could have to pay double what they are now.

The health department also talked about drastically reducing late fees, but wants to shorten a number of time restaurants have to pay those late fees before being shut down.

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