Vancouver City Council extends Business License Surcharge Program

Although the city has returned an estimated $96,000 to eligible business owners, an estimated 500 eligible business owners have not yet applied

Hudson Room
Courtesy of Visit Vancouver USA

Originally enacted in April of 2021, the Vancouver City Council recently decided to extend the city’s Business License Surcharge Refund Program through the end of the year (Dec. 31, 2022). Under the program, some Vancouver businesses most impacted by COVID-19 safety protocols can get a refund on a portion of their licensing fees.

The business license surcharge fee is an “employee fee” that is calculated per full-time employee.

Businesses eligible to apply for the Business License Surcharge Refund Program include businesses that traditionally serve large numbers of customers indoors, such as:

  • Restaurants, taverns, breweries, wineries and distilleries
  • Fitness and training facilities, including yoga studios
  • Movie theaters and performing arts venues
  • Bowling facilities

William Cooley, community engagement manager for the city of Vancouver, said that over the past year, the city has mailed out 620 notices to potentially eligible business owners. During that time, he said the city has received a total of 110 refund applications and has returned $96,000 to eligible business owners.

“While city staff are proud of the work that’s been done, an estimated 500 eligible business owners have not yet applied,” Cooley said.

Cooley said that city staff members are currently working to improve the application process and communicate with community groups to get the word out about the refund program. He said staff members are currently developing a streamlined online application that will replace the existing PDF form, which must be downloaded and filled out.

“The application, which will be available in English and Spanish, will allow applicants to submit a photo of their business license instead of typing out details by hand,” Cooley said. “This will save time and simplify the application from 21 fields to only eight.”

Together with additional direct outreach to eligible business owners, Cooley said city staff are also working with local business groups to help spread the word about the program. These efforts include attending meetings to directly invite participation and exploring ways to jointly provide application assistance.

Cooley said the city will also launch a social media outreach campaign to offer assistance and encourage eligible businesses to apply, as a part of National Small Business Week in May.

For more information or for help applying, business owners can email business.licenses@cityofvancouver.us or call 360-487-8410, option 3.

Joanna Yorke is the managing editor of the Vancouver Business Journal. She has worked in the journalism field since 2010 after graduating from the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. Yorke worked at The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground for six years and then worked at and helped start ClarkCountyToday.com.