Late night alcohol levy divides opinion

Neil Johnston York Council may introduce a levy on late night bars and clubs, in an effort to tackle the problems caused by late night drinking.

With charges ranging from £299 to £4,440 per year, the levy would be imposed on any licensed premises selling alcohol between midnight and 6am, including late night bars popular with students, and all the YUSU-endorsed clubs.

Aimed at encouraging bars to close before midnight to avoid charges, those that stay open late will shoulder the levy’s cost, which may be passed on to customers.

The Council’s proposal, on which it is now consulting local bars and clubs, has divided opinion across the city.

Adele Lord, Senior General Manager at Tokyo, said, “It all depends on what time they decide to implement the late night levy.

“If they set the levy at 2-3 am, I don’t think there’ll be any clubs left in the UK after about two years.

“People could stay in bars ‘til late, so why would they go to a club? The footfall is much more spread out.” But she continued, “It could be quite a positive thing.

“The times are important to businesses because before the 24 hour licensing came in about seven or eight years ago, most pubs shut at 11.30 or 12, and then people would go out to the clubs. When 24-hour licensing came in all of that changed.

“All they’re doing is taking it back to seven or eight years ago, when the bigger nightclubs used to be the last port of call.”

Chung Wright, Manager at Blue Fly, was more sceptical. “Whatever the levy is set at, it will only increase. And that’s the issue. It’s the fact that, if they do implement it, there’s no going back.

“We don’t know how much we’ll have to pay. If it’s £200, and it’s £200 all the way, that’s fine. But as we all know, that’s not how the governments work.”

Ben, Supervisor at Dusk, warned, “If they charge more for independent bars they’ll run them into the ground.”

But he said, “It’s going to affect the chains more than us – it’ll only be a couple of hundred pounds for us. We need to wait for the results really, it’s kind of hard to say what the effects will be.

The Council estimates it will raise up to £286,000 from the proposed levy, of which 30 per cent will go to York Council, and 70 per cent to the Police and Crime Commissioner to tackle alcohol-related crime. According to Council figures, last year violent crimes occurred within 50m of 95 late-night premises, 130 had anti-social behaviour, and 78 had damage.

In the same year, the number of A&E attendances for victims of assault between midnight and 6am was 331, with an estimated 164 alcohol-related.

Lord said when it came to cracking down on crimes by late-night drinkers, “Anything is a help really”. But when asked about potential price rises in Tokyo due to the levy she said, “I doubt it. If less pubs and bars are open then we get an increased footfall.”

Bob Hughes, YUSU Welfare Officer, said, “The proposed alcohol levy could prove very helpful within the city if it is used properly as a way of targeting the causes and effects of issues around alcohol rather than as a blanket tax.

“YUSU will be taking part in the consultation as and when we can, speaking on the effects this may have on students, but overall the York Council have given me reason to think it may go some way to tackling some of the root problems around alcohol and drinking culture.”

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