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Portland to reexamine fees on amusement devices after popular bar pays large sum to reopen

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Arcadia National Bar, an arcade-themed bar in Portland, has been closed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bar’s owners, Dave Aceto and Nicole Costas-Rosa, are preparing to reopen at a new location, but not before paying over $18,000 to the city for a liquor license application.

Over $15,000 of that amount is fees for amusement devices and pinball machines. Portland charges $153 per amusement device and $33 per non-mechanical pool table. 

The application fee is approximately $15,000 more than what Arcadia paid at their previous location, where they rotated between 20 to 30 games available for their patrons at one time. At their new location, the bar plans to have around 50 video console games and 50 pinball machines available. Arcadia’s owners have stated the fee consumed the last of the money they had set aside to use towards reopening their business.

The Portland City Code defines an amusement device as any “vending machine, miniature pool and bowling machine, pinball machine, foosball, and any other device mechanical or otherwise” that can be used by the public as a game after a coin or token is inserted, and which does not dispense any other form of payoff or prize. 

Portland has assessed some form of fee for amusement devices since at least 1961, when the city charged $10 per pinball machine located on the premises of a business. 

The city reorganized its code in 1968, and Chapter 15, which contains a schedule of fees for various licenses enforced by the city, did not exist prior to then. Chapter 412, which existed in 1961 and assessed a $10 fee for pinball machines, was chaptered differently prior to that date.

The city’s license fee for amusement devices and pinball machines is assessed annually and is paid at the time a business applies for a liquor license, but is not tied to a business’ liquor license.

Arcadia’s liquor license application will be considered by the Portland City Council on October 4. The bar’s owners plan to ask the council to change the city’s rules and cap the fee for amusement devices at 20 games. They also want to make the change retroactive to January 2021, which means Arcadia would not be charged over $15,000 in fees for games.

If their liquor license is approved, Arcadia’s owners believe the business will be open by the middle of October.

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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