ELIZABETH, NJ - A proposed amendment from City Council plans to lower the municipality's licensing fees for salon and barbers shop owners, some of whom say the reductions are still not enough.
The current ordinance requires salons and barbershops to pay an annual $350 licensing fee to the city. Any business that also operates as a nail salon has to pay an additional $350 fee.
The new ordinance would cut those fees in half. But Diana Maldonado, a salon owner who operates the Beauty Salons In Elizabeth Together Facebook page, still doesn't think the fees are “fair.” She says other municipalities in the county pay lower licensing fees.
“They are setting the standard in Union County way too high,” she said in a message today, citing that New Providence -- a borough -- only pays a $68 licensing fee. “This will be a future problem for other towns in Union County.”
The proposed amendment to the ordinance was approved on a first reading at last night’s City Council meeting. It’s slated for a final vote in September, and will then have to be signed by the mayor.
About 20 protesters came to City Hall at the regular July 26 meeting, where salon owners shared emotional anecdotes about the impact the fees were having on their businesses. About 11 people came to last night's meeting, including Maldonado.
“We heard your concerns, we hear your cries,” said Torres at the meeting last night. “We're not trying to chase small businesses away. So we as a group sat down and we decided to make an amendment to this ordinance.”
Permits from the city need to be renewed before Oct. 1, and the proposed reduction in fees may go into full effect two days after that date. However, there will be a grace period until Oct. 6 so that salon owners could pay the reduced fees in the upcoming year, said city spokeswoman Ruby Contreras.
The original ordinance also required a $100 permit fee for any barber shop or salon to operate past 8:30 p.m. The proposed amendment reduces that fee to $50 and is only required for a business that desires to stay open from 10 p.m. to midnight.
Salon owners must also pay licensing fees to the state in addition to the city fees. Council President Torres said in July that Elizabeth was not compared to other large cities like Jersey City when coming up with an original plan for the fees last year.
“Elizabeth is the fourth biggest city [in New Jersey]," he said in July. "So we're not comparing to Hoboken or Jersey City, but we came up with a resolution, a plan that we thought was fair.”
Still, Maldonado, who owns the Elegant Look Beauty Salon on Elizabeth Avenue beauty salon on Elizabeth Avenue, would prefer one flat city fee.
“What would make us happy is one flat fee per business and under $100.00,” she said in a message today, adding that she didn’t expect that to happen. “I guess eventually I'll have to move to a town that is fair to small businesses.
“We will keep fighting!” she added.