Don Labbe practices his shots at American Pool and Billiards in Portland on Monday Sept. 20, 2021. The pool hall must pay the city $33 annually for each non-mechanical pool table it operates. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

PORTLAND, Maine — Last week, owners of Arcadia National Bar on Congress Street paid nearly $20,000 applying for a liquor license. The steep fee was driven up by a $153 city levy on each of the 100 pinball and video games the arcade-themed watering hole plans to operate.

That surprised many readers and they told us so on social media and in the comments section. That got us thinking about what other business applications and licensing costs may be lurking in Portland’s city codes.

Below is a list of some of the lesser-known charges business owners and regular citizens must pay the city.

But first, here’s an actual breakdown of what Arcadia Bar paid in applying for its liquor license.

First, the base fee for a class 11 restaurant and lounge liquor license was $2,326. On top of that, they were charged $150 for a health inspection and $500 for an indoor entertainment license. Also on the bill were a $45 new application fee, $63 for a background check and a $150 sound mitigation fee.

Arcadia also paid $100 for a legal advertisement publicising the liquor license review at the city council meeting on Oct. 4.

The biggest part of the application fee went for 100 pinball and video games. At $153 apiece, that came to a whopping $15,300.  

City officials couldn’t say exactly why video games and pinball machines are an added fee on top of an indoor entertainment license.

“Business license fees go into the general fund,” said city spokesperson Jessica Grondin.

Arcadia Bar’s total liquor license application fee came to $18,634.

Blue skies are reflected in the front door glass at American Pool and Billiards in Portland’s Union Station Plaza on Monday Sept. 20, 2021. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

The only other business operating in Portland coming close to paying that much for pinball and video games is Spare Time Entertainment. The national chain operates a bowling alley on Riverside Street and has 45 licensed games totalling $6,885 in yearly amusement fees.

Here’s a small sample of other fees listed on the city website.

Any circus coming to town is charged a $45 license application fee then $181 a day, if they’re a for-profit organization. If they’re non-profit, it’s only $27 a day.

Farmers selling goods at the city’s Saturday and Wednesday markets pay $100 to get in on the action and a $35 yearly renewal fee after that.

While mechanical amusements like video games and pinball are over $150 per machine, annually, non-mechanical pool tables are a bargain at $33.

The annual fee to sell at a city flea market is $22 but applicants must also pay for a $21 background check.

If a private citizen wants to sell their belongings on the sidewalk in front of their house, that’ll be $92. Additionally, they must submit their completed application at least 30 days prior to the start of the sale and show proof of $400,000 in public liability insurance with the city of Portland named as an additional insured party. But if they use their yard instead of the sidewalk, it’s free.

Don Labbe eyes his next move at American Pool and Billiards in Portland on Monday Sept. 20, 2021. The Union Station Plaza pool hall operates more than a dozen tables and must pay the city $33 annually for each one. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Those wanting to own a bike cab company must pay $150 for a new, one-bike license or $140 to renew the license. It’s $10 for each additional bicycle after that and $21 for each non-bike-riding administrative employee. Anyone actually pedaling the bike gets hit with a $87 new license fee, or $77 for a renewal, as well.

Folks pushing carts around the city during special events, selling noisemakers, funny hats and light-up toys for the kiddos will pay $38 a day for the privilege.

Operating a tow truck costs $278 per year. Plus, the application fee is $45 the first time and $35 every year after that. Don’t forget the $21 background check.

An annual valet parking permit will set you back $273. It costs $45 a year to apply for it the first time and $35 every year after that.

Second hand stores, junk collectors, pawn shops and used car lots all operate on the same city license. The cost is $153 the first year and $35 every year thereafter, plus a $45 application fee and $21 for the standard background check.

It even costs money to close up shop in Portland. The city charges $104 for a going-out-of-business sale license, plus a $45 authorized signature processing fee.

For a full list, visit the Permitting and Inspections Department page at the city website.

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Troy R. Bennett

Troy R. Bennett is a Buxton native and longtime Portland resident whose photojournalism has appeared in media outlets all over the world.