Hoteliers dismayed after being hit by full booze licence bill - despite being closed most of the year due to Covid-19

A number of Blackpool hoteliers were dismayed to find themselves hit with a large alcohol licencing bill covering the cost of selling booze for the whole year - despite being closed for months due to Covid-19.
Hotels will have to pay their alcohol licence in full this year, despite lockdownHotels will have to pay their alcohol licence in full this year, despite lockdown
Hotels will have to pay their alcohol licence in full this year, despite lockdown

Hotel owners said they were shocked to discover they could have to pay the full yearly rate, as they had not been able to bring in any business between March and late July, with many hotels being closed since last winter.

But Blackpool Council bosses said the fees were sent out in line with Government laws, and that there was no legal way for them to slash them.

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Shirley Hunt, owner of the Cranstone Hotel on Alexandra Road, said: “I didn’t even open until the beginning of August. I’m not happy because I’m not even using the bar at the moment because of Covid-19. The bar is quite small so I’m not letting people in.

“I don’t think it’s fair. I think there should be some leeway. I don’t expect to pay nothing, but I don’t think it’s right to ask for the full amount when we haven’t been open for five months.”

Hoteliers who do not pay the fee will have their licence suspended.

Bob Lucas, of the Bronte House hotel, said: “I thought there would be a bit of leeway because of Covid-19, and I've actually been stuck in lockdown in Spain for months. We haven't been open from November to July and we haven't done any bar business at all.

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"It's £180 for the whole year. I'm going to have to pay because I can't stand the thought of going through the whole rigmarole again next year."

Christine Shannon, of the Westcliff Hotel, said: "I think it's disgusting that we are being charged in full. We've not been open since March, so we shouldn't have to pay for that period."

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton said he had written to Government ministers about a possible refund after being contacted by multiple hoteliers.

He said: “There is a great argument for awarding a partial rebate on the cost of a 12 month bar license to small hoteliers and B&Bs due to the enforced closure for part of the year. Although a partial refund would be small it would of course be welcomed by many.”

BLACKPOOL COUNCIL SAID...

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John Blackledge, Blackpool Council director of community and environmental services, said: “Fees relating to licences issued in accordance with the Licensing Act 2003 are set by central government. Unfortunately, there are no legislative provisions for us to refund or reduce the fees.

“However, there is some provision in government advice which allows for flexibility in the collection of these fees.

“Blackpool Council did adopt this flexible approach and wrote to business owners to explain that due to the hospitality industry experiencing a difficult and unprecedented period as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, that we were extending the time required for licence fees to be paid.”