Pub bosses’ shock at booze ‘tax’

Revellers on a night out in town.

Revellers on a night out in town.

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BLACKPOOL bars could have to pay extra ‘tax’ to serve booze after midnight from next year.

The council is looking into a late night levy on venues which open late.

Licensing chiefs can also decide whether to introduce an early morning restriction order (EMRO) which would limit opening hours.

But publicans today told The Gazette the move would be another blow for already struggling businesses.

The new powers came into force nationally this week but the first levies, which would range from £299 to £4,400 depending on the rateable value of the premises, will not come into force until April next year.

The income generated would be split with 70 per cent going to the police, and 30 per cent to local councils.

Blackpool’s licensing chairman Coun Norman Hardy said: “I think it is something worth looking at but we must have reasonable expectation that the figures fit if we do introduce a levy.

“We only have one 6am licence in Blackpool, with other late night premises operating until 3am or 4am.

“If we were minded to introduce any of these changes, we would have to go out to consultation and then decide what to do and nothing would come into force until April 1 next year.”

Licensees in the resort fear the move could affect trade.

Craig Southall, chairman of Blackpool Pubwatch, said: “It’s something we don’t really think is a good idea because all bars will be finishing at 12 and putting people out on the streets at the same time.

“All our staff could start losing hours so it’s going to be quite bad for all the staff members involved.

“Blackpool is a high unemployment area and all of a sudden people, through no fault of their own, may lose out on work.

“With Blackpool being the way it is, going out of season at the moment, it’s very bad timing and the pubs need all the help they can get at the moment instead of these extra levies.

“We’re already paying our rates and we’re a struggling industry as it is - it’s becoming impossible to trade.”

Michael Sugden, a director of Ma Kelly’s which has three pubs in Blackpool and has just bought a fourth venue, added: “All our venues open after midnight and K2, which we have just bought, has a 4am licence.

“We already have to pay business rates, rent, electricity and everything else so this levy would be another bill we could do without.

“And it is not as if it is guaranteed the money which comes in would be spent on local policing.

“A lot of businesses won’t be able to afford it.”

Dave Daly, landlord of The Castle pub on Central Drive, said: “The town centre pubs might be OK with this, but it could be to the detriment of those on the edge who currently open until 1am.

“I would definitely want the money ringfenced for licensing issues.

“But I think Blackpool Council needs to consider what the impact could be on town centre businesses before it makes a decision on this.”

Dan Johnson, manager of The Belle Vue, in Whitegate Drive, added: “You can imagine it wouldn’t be viable for a lot of places to open.

“It seems like drinking is the new smoking, they’re trying to shut it down.

“You can understand why they’re doing it because there’s an increase in crime after midnight, but it’s the minority spoiling it for the rest of us.”

Bill Tankard, licensee at the Don Pepe Bar, in King Street, said: “It will affect quite a few businesses and it’s going to affect pricing again.

“It doesn’t help the staff either but the thing is the industry is struggling and those in power are just making it worse.”

Elaine Fitzgerald, assistant manager at Tommy Ducks, on the Promenade, said: “It’s not very fair because if the licence they’ve got allows them to open later they shouldn’t have to pay extra.

“If it came in the company probably wouldn’t pay for it.”

Vicky Green, deputy manager at the Dunes Hotel, in Lytham Road, added: “I don’t think it’s very good or fair, although it will probably affect the independent pubs worst.”

The Home Office has estimated the measures could generate about £17m per year.

Minister for Crime Prevention Jeremy Browne said: “It is reasonable to expect those profiting from the sale of alcohol to help pay the costs of policing, rather than expecting taxpayers to foot the entire bill.”

If Blackpool Council decides to go ahead and look at a potential levy, it would need a full 42 day consultation, a hearing to consider representations from businesses and passing by full council.

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