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City verifying business licenses

NATCHEZ — Business owners who don’t have a license from the City of Natchez may want to head to City Hall to get one.

Every business in Natchez will soon be getting a visit from retired law enforcement officer George Rutherford, who has been contracted by the city to make sure every business in the city has a license.

Rutherford is starting his second month working part-time for the city and has been physically going to businesses to check business licenses.

“A lot of them I’ve found don’t have a license or let their license expire years ago,” Rutherford said. “It wasn’t something they kept up with, because nobody was checking on it.”

Mayor Butch Brown said when he took office, he discovered that records of business licenses were not current. Brown personally checked with some businesses and professionals and discovered their licenses were not current.

Some businesses had paid for licenses and never received them, Brown said. Others, he said, never bothered to get a license.

Some business owners, Rutherford said, may not know they need a license, such as farmers who sell product on the side of the road. Produce stands require licenses, he said.

Since Rutherford began checking licenses a month ago, revenue for licenses has increased, Brown said.

Rutherford said revenue from licenses was up $2,000 last month.

Rutherford has started checking businesses in the outer-lying areas of the city and is working his way inward.

Brown said he is pleased to have Rutherford on the job and believes he is the perfect man for it.

Rutherford joined the Natchez Police Department in the late 1960s and worked there until 1995. He spent his last 10 years at NPD as assistant chief.

Rutherford then joined the Vidalia Police Department, where he was assistant chief for 10 years before his retirement.

Rutherford said he is not sure how long checking all the businesses in the city will take. He said there is not an up-to-date list of all the businesses that he can go by.

The reason many businesses do not have licenses may be just an oversight, Rutherford said.

“A lot of people don’t realize they need one or don’t remember to renew it,” he said. “A lot of it is not intentional; it’s just an oversight on their part for not getting one or an oversight on our part for not notifying them.”

Businesses without licenses face penalties. A business license must be renewed every year.

Brown said he believes the city will conduct an annual check for licenses in the future, as well as keep a close watch for new businesses.