Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby, who owns a downtown clothing business, didn’t renew her city business license in 2015.
Selby owns Vivala, a shop with locations in Olympia and Tumwater. The business has been registered with the Secretary of State’s Office since 2006.
Businesses are required to get a license from the municipality where they operate, and businesses must renew that local license every year.
Selby said her Olympia business license expired 13 months ago. As a result, she was ineligible for a simple renewal at $30 and had to re-register the business for the full $80 fee.
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A new Olympia business license for Vivala LLC was issued Jan. 8, according to the state Department of Revenue’s Business Licensing Service, which shows that Vivala’s Tumwater license will expire at the end of February.
Selby, who was elected mayor in November, addressed the issue from the dais during Tuesday’s council meeting.
“Last year, I got notice to renew my Tumwater location, which I did, and somehow did not receive notification or it slipped through the cracks somewhere during the busy campaign year and I did not renew my downtown Olympia license for one year,” Selby said Tuesday.
“I need to research how I didn’t get a follow-up notice that said ‘Cheryl, you need to renew,’” she said. “So I’m really glad that was brought to my attention because otherwise I wouldn’t have known.”
The expired business license came to Selby’s attention when, during public comment, local resident Ellen Rice complained that she had to pay $80 for a business license — on top of a $24 state business permit — to sell her self-published book in Olympia. Rice encouraged the city to reduce the costs for “micro-entrepreneurs” like herself.
“My goal for selling my little book is to buy a new sewing machine,” Rice told the council Jan. 5. “It’s silly to pay $80. You’re charging me the same amount that the city charged REI.”
City Manager Steve Hall later approached Rice outside council chambers, where he learned from Thurston County resident Missy Genson that Selby’s city business license was expired. Genson said she discovered the expired license after searching for Selby’s business on the Business Licensing Service website.
Selby said the city has not fined her and that all her taxes have been paid on time. This was confirmed by a city spokeswoman.
“It’s embarrassing as a business owner,” Selby said. “I’d like to find out how I didn’t get notification.”
The state Department of Revenue handles business license transactions and related penalties for several cities. According to Olympia city code, failure to renew a city business license may result in a penalty.
“A business license delinquency fee is imposed on licensees who fail to renew by the business license expiration date,” according to city code, which notes a maximum fee of $150. “The business license delinquency fee must be added to the renewal fee and paid by the licensee before a business license is renewed.”
A section of city code includes harsher penalties of up to $1,000. City spokeswoman Kellie Purce Braseth said this section of the code “is the legal hammer meant for repeat offenders and blatant violators of the code.”
Braseth added that for otherwise law-abiding business owners who don’t renew because of an oversight, the city will charge them the appropriate fees and “send them out to play their part in keeping the economy running.”