Hackney bars condemn new levy

52 per cent of Hackney residents supported the levy in a public consultation Pic: Darren Johnson – Flickr

A new late-night levy on venues selling alcohol between midnight and 6am has been deemed “disastrous” by Hackney’s shops, bars and clubs.

Last week, Hackney Council announced the levy as a way to “manage the impacts of the night-time economy” by hiring additional officers to tackle late-night crime in lively areas like Dalston and Shoreditch.

The council said the levy will raise nearly £400,000 per year and that it is “central to addressing anti-social behaviour in the area”.

Businesses will be charged between £299 and £1,473 per year to continue serving alcohol after midnight from November 1.

Kate Nicholls, Chief Executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said the plan risks driving local venues that “contribute enormously socially and economically” out of business.

“This is an extremely retrograde action by the council, one that will heap costs on vital businesses in the area and is likely to have a disastrous effect for employers who provide so much.

“Dance Tunnel, a much-loved venue in the area, was forced to close its doors recently due to spiraling costs and a tough legislative environment. This move by the council only risks closure of even more venues,” Nicholls said.

The manager of cocktail bar Nightjar said: “Whilst I understand that councils are facing a funding crisis and that parts of Hackney and Shoreditch do have issues with the behaviour of late-night revellers, this indiscriminate levy constitutes an unfair extension to taxation.

“All bars already pay business rates, and many operators with late licences have already paid handsomely for them by way of lease premiums and higher rent.

“We’ve been trading late-night hours for 7 years and in that time have never required the attention of the local police or indeed any other council services.

“The majority of the required policing and enforcement comes as a result of high volume establishments with indiscriminate door and drunkenness policies. We do not see why operators who cause no problems for the local authority should be made to pay for those that do.”

A public consultation on the proposed levy was open from February to May of this year – 52 per cent of Hackney residents supported the levy, with 48 per cent opposing the plan.

The council has defended the levy, arguing “there is a strong correlation between the locations of licensed premises and the level of crime and disorder which warrants this action”.

Borough Commander, Detective Chief Inspector Simon Laurence, said:

“Hackney has a great reputation as a destination with an exciting and original entertainment and hospitality offer, but this can come at a cost to public services and have an impact on the quality of life in the borough.

There can be problems with late night noise, anti-social behaviour and litter. The late night levy will help public services manage this impact by paying for more police officers, enforcement officers and street cleaners into the early hours of the morning. I will welcome extra funds in order to help keep Hackney a safe place to live, work and enjoy.”

Councillor Guy Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Planning, Business and Investment, said the levy will “ensure that public services can support a successful night time economy, whilst helping to mitigate the environmental impact on local residents and that visitors enjoy their visit to the borough, returning time and again to enjoy what Hackney’s businesses have to offer.

“The late-night levy will help public services manage this impact by paying for more police officers, enforcement officers and street cleaners into the early hours of the morning.”

Hackney Police said the cost of night-time economy policing amounts to  £1.4 million per year.

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