A late-night levy on bars and clubs could put some of Cardiff’s most popular nightspots out of business, a publican warned.
Nick Newman, chairman of Cardiff Licensees’ Forum, told WalesOnline that imposing a levy on late-night venues of up to £1,500 a year could sound the death knell for the city’s independent licensed traders.
It comes a week after a company that owns three Cardiff nightspots went into administration
, citing financial difficulties. Beatbox Bars Ltd said it would continue to trade at Buffalo Bar and 10 Feet Tall in the city centre but was forced to shut its other venue, Fire Island, on Westgate Street.
Mr Newman, who runs Brewhouse on St Mary Street, Cardiff, said: “Bars everywhere are already struggling and this just looks like a stealth tax to us. I think we feel like this would be asking us to pay for things that we already do.”
The late-night levy is already being used in at least one English city and works by forcing licensed premises that sell alcohol between midnight and 6am to pay extra charges.
If implemented, the profits would be shared between Cardiff council and South Wales Police.
But while the council would have to plough its 30% share back into managing what it calls the “night-time economy”, there are no restrictions on what the police do with their 70% share.
Councillor Greta Marshall, chair of the Licensing Committee, which meets today to consider a report into the late-night levy, said it was her view the “disadvantages outweigh the benefits” of the scheme.
With hotels, sports clubs and pubs participating in Pubwatch schemes all exempt from the levy – and with the council predicting many others would simply close earlier to avoid it – she said the extra funds raised would be “negligible”. South Wales Police declined to comment.
WalesOnline has calculated that if all 700 licensed premises in the city were forced to pay the levy, it would raise almost £900,000 – with around £260,000 going into the council’s coffers and just over £600,000 to the police.
But the cost of enforcing the levy would have to come out of that fund, and it is expected the number of pubs opting to close their doors before midnight instead of paying the levy would mean substantially less money is raised.
According to the licensing committee report, there is also a risk that pubs seeking to avoid the levy would all close at the same time – putting extra pressure on police and taxi queues.