A plan to impose a levy on pub, clubs and restaurants in Tower Hamlets selling alcohol between midnight and 6am has been halted after a legal challenge.
The charge – due to come into force today (June 1) – was drawn up by the council in a bid to gather revenue to help combat drunken behaviour, which they say costs some £340,000 a year.
The levy was challenged by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR), whose membership represents 650,000 employees in 26,000 dining and drinking outlets in the UK, on the grounds that it was unclear which establishments should be paying the levy.
ALMR Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: “Tower Hamlets council’s consultation on its late-night levy was flawed and denied businesses in the area a chance to engage knowing all the facts.”
The ALMR mobilised against the levy, first reported by East London Lines last year, and lodged a judicial review last month.
Nicholls said: “The council may not have intentionally sought to deceive businesses, but the reality is that the consultation document omitted crucial information that was required by businesses to make an informed decision.”
The average levy would vary on the size of the business in the borough, with the proposition stating that the council “must use the funds to tackle late night alcohol related crime and disorder”.
Mayor John Biggs said of the plans earlier this year: “We have a late-night problem around Spitalfields and Shoreditch that can only be dealt with by a borough-wide levy. We can’t selectively choose a geographical area.”
The levy is supposed to help combat anti-social behaviour, which costs the council thousands.
According to Tower Hamlets council, there are 200 related ambulance calls in the borough; 22 per cent of these happen at the weekends and 17 per cent happen between midnight and 6am, the time of the proposed levy. The cost of this to the borough is estimated at £336,752 per year.
Tower Hamlets council said it would begin consultations again.
They will run until August 23 and the levy now specifies licensed premises selling or supplying alcohol between midnight and 6am will be subject to the charge.
Nicholls added: “The ALMR will be scrutinising any further action by the council and will forcefully oppose any measures that heap additional costs on hardworking venues and threaten jobs and investment in eating and drinking out businesses.”