Late-night levy will ‘kill the night-club economy’, say Hackney business owners

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Nightclubs, pubs and bars in Shoreditch and Dalston have warned Hackney Council that plans to introduce a late-night levy would destroy the borough’s thriving nightlife.

The council and police are currently asking residents and businesses to submit their views on the introduction of a levy on premises serving alcohol between midnight and 6am. The levy is expected to raise around £362,000 per year and would go towards the cost of managing the late-night economy in Hackney.

However, local businesses have hit back at the proposals.

William Knowoef-Mofford, owner of Looking Glass Cocktail Club in Shoreditch, accused the council of “killing the nightclub economy”.

“Of course large businesses don’t care about it because they can afford it! I care about my customers and I care about my neighbours.

It’s the bigger venues that contribute to the level of crime rates and disorder in the borough and they are not the ones who are going to be affected by this. It’s the small independent businesses like mine that will be.”

Looking Glass Cocktail Club in Shoreditch
Looking Glass Cocktail Club in Shoreditch

Barbaros Inan, owner of High Water in Dalston, said: “The council has already increased business rates as of April this year which is going to affect my business. I would have to look at the income made in the extra hours we are open after midnight and consider whether it is worth adding the extra cost..

“I’m really not happy. I don’t know what I would do if this went ahead.”

The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, a campaign group for smaller independent companies that own and operate pubs, bars and restaurants, have also expressed concerns over the introduction of the levy, which they say would “stifle investment and have a detrimental effect on local businesses.

The ALMR has consistently opposed the introduction of late-night levies across the country, promoting partnership schemes and voluntary measures as an alternative.

ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “The introduction of a late-night levy would be a retrograde step for the council and local businesses will suffer as a result.”

“Pubs, restaurants and nightclubs in Hackney already make a substantial contribution in the form of taxes and business rates, which, for most local operators, are increasing substantially, and an additional cost burden will only undermine their ability to invest and employ in the area.

“The borough’s pubs, bars and nightclubs are an asset to the community. They attract customers, bring money to the area and contribute to the unique character of this part of London.”

The levy is set at a national level by the government based on the premises’ rateable value. In Hackney that would vary from £299 to £1,259 per year.

The British Beer & Pub Association’s chief executive Brigid Simmonds has also expressed disappointment at the move.

“It is very disappointing to see a vibrant central London borough like Hackney seek to impose this new tax on local businesses, many of which are already reeling from rocketing business rates in the capital. An extra new tax would only deter investment further,” she said.

“It is also a real disincentive for local businesses to work constructively with the council on improving the borough. It undermines partnership schemes between pubs, councils and the police, which can produce very positive results.”

Lee Godwin, operations manager for Barworks Ltd, which owns The Griffin and Electricity Showrooms in Shoreditch, said that the levy should be proportionate to venues’ past records in dealing with incidents:

“I consider Electricity Showrooms to be a better operator than other bars in the area that are less responsible and promote drunk and disorderly behaviour,” he said. “We have a very strict door policy and our alcohol offerings don’t encourage irresponsible behaviour.”

“In short we are happy to pay more but it needs to be proportionate to our venue’s good track record. For us it would be around £1,500 a year, that’s £35 a week, which wouldn’t be a huge issue.”

Hackney Council commented: “We want to help support and sustain the borough’s nightlife, which has made a valuable contribution to wider cultural and economic growth. However, it has also had an impact on public services, with increased levels of antisocial behaviour, crime noise nuisance and litter.”

Hackney currently has 399 premises licensed to sell alcohol between midnight and 6am. Around 40 businesses already take part in a voluntary scheme, raising around £56,000 per year. The voluntary levy has helped to fund additional patrols by community safety wardens on Friday and Saturday nights in Dalston and Shoreditch.

A similar levy was introduced in Islington in November 2014 and raised nearly £400,000 in its first year of operation.

The consultation closes on 7 May.