Don’t bar campus drinkers

The proposed alcohol levy will combat anti-social behaviour in town, but just isn’t appropriate for campus

Brandon Seager

Brandon Seager

The Council has recently proposed a levy on drinking venues in York that wish to continue serving alcohol past 12pm. They hope this will generate £286,000 each year to be used to counter the mess, crime and anti social behaviour of the revellers. The fee would directly affect campus as each of our bars would be forced to find between £5.75 and £85 each week.

In principle, the levy should not be entirely opposed. It’s all done for the greater good, a safer and cleaner city for night life. In theory, this benefits locals, students, and tourists. While it might force some smaller bars out of business, the Council have come up with a realistic solution to their cash flow problem. The money has to come from somewhere, and taking it from those who contribute in no way to the problems just is not fair.

York’s beauty is a popular reason for students to choose the city and without it a lot of us would probably be in Leeds right now, so less vomit on the pavement would be nice for all of us. But nice isn’t enough to outweigh the loss of favourite haunts.

Of course there are definite negatives to the levy solution, which makes me all the more grateful that until October 31st, students, staff and locals alike have their chance to put in their two cents. Once the consultation period ends, we will have to wait until December for a decision, but will have lost all control on the outcome. This is why we must discuss the issue now and make it publicly known that bars like Evil Eye, Bora Bora and 1331 are all at risk from eventually being forced out of business.

Adele Lord’s comment that “I don’t think there’ll be any clubs left in the UK after about two years” is based on the worst case scenario, but it certainly highlights the problematic situation. Students may well have a reputation for being broke, but that’s only when we’ve drunk our loans already. The spending power of students in York is enormous – there are two universities here, after all. Anything that dissuades us from emptying our wallets in town (or indeed limiting our ability to) may well be less of a solution for the Council than another problem in itself.

Considering our unique position as a campus university in this consultation shows that realistically, this levy would not help us at all and we should speak up against it.

What benefits would we see here on campus? Well, not many really. As the University already employs its own cleaners, porters and other staff, the Council won’t really be cutting any expenditure on cleaning up after our exploits and controlling our (hopefully infrequent) anti-social behaviour.

What’s more, if we paid the levy, YUSU budget would be even further stretched, taking away money that could be given to sports and societies to further embellish the student experience at York.

And if campus bars couldn’t afford to stay open late, YUSU would lose a large chunk of profits, sightings of tumble weeds would soon outnumber those of ducks and Constantine College would never get filled.

YUSU’s college bars reinforce college spirit, a defining feature of the University that we should try to maintain for as long as possible. Without the late night menu at Courtyard, or fledgling nights like Coup D’etat on campus are helping to make these venues into legitimate drinking holes, but as they are held at YUSU’s bars they are especially vulnerable to closure.

If YUSU can’t afford to pay the levy, the bars will lose business and eventually close, or dramatically change.

So in terms of the levy’s impact on campus, it will be entirely non-existent or negative.

It is crucial that we harness the power offered in the form of consultation so that we can fight this scenario becoming a reality.

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