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‘Venues could close’ warning over night time booze levy by Tower Hamlets Council

PUBLISHED: 11:38 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 13:36 25 September 2017

Brick Lane... centre of East End's bustling night-time economy where Tower Hamlets Council's new midnight 'booze' levy will be felt. Picture: Mike Brooke

Brick Lane... centre of East End's bustling night-time economy where Tower Hamlets Council's new midnight 'booze' levy will be felt. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

The controversial levy on selling alcohol and food after midnight in East London’s City Fringe ‘night economy’ district which faced a legal challenge is finally going ahead.

Tower Hamlets councillor John Pierce (right) guides City Hall's 'Nigh Czar' Amy Lame on Brick Lane  tour before ill-fated night levy was withdrawn. Picture: Rehan Jamil/LBTH Tower Hamlets councillor John Pierce (right) guides City Hall's 'Nigh Czar' Amy Lame on Brick Lane tour before ill-fated night levy was withdrawn. Picture: Rehan Jamil/LBTH

But businesses selling liquor between midnight and 6am—now having to fork out the charge in the New Year to Tower Hamlets Council—are warning it could put the East End’s thriving night life in danger.

The weekly levy from £5.75 to £85.38, depending on size and rateable value of premises, was agreed by the council last Wednesday to get traders to pay for policing the streets at night.

This will be felt mostly by restaurants, pubs, bars and off licences around the Spitalfields and Shoreditch neighbourhoods where anti-social behaviour from late night revellers has plagued residents over the years.

First attempt at the levy from June 1 was halted in May when it was challenged by lawyers from the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers because public consultations were “misleading” on which outlets could be charged. The consultation had to be rerun which led to the latest decision to levy the traders from January.

“This will put further financial pressure on valuable businesses,” the trade association’s chief Kate Nicholls told the East London Advertiser. “The levy will stifle investment, put jobs at risk and could ultimately see venues close.”

The House of Lords looking into the Licensing Act said that the levy was “unfit for purpose” and has recommended it be abandoned altogether, the traders’ association points out.

A petition to the council was also sent by venues opposed to the measure. The association this week accused the town hall of “ignoring the concerns of its own businesses in favour of a measure that will put late-night offering at risk”.

But the council was determined that businesses should help pay for policing the streets at night.

Its cabinet member for community safety, Asma Begum, said “A late night levy means we can ask these businesses to pay a fair share of the costs.”

It also received backing from the Spire umbrella organisation of Spitalfields community groups, whose spokesman Jon Shapero said: “The level is capped too low and is irrelevant to thriving night clubs. But it might deter some traders licensed up to midnight from extending their hours to 1am.”

The council has no power to limit the levy to areas like Brick Lane where the night economy has an impact on the community.

So it plans exemptions to hotels, theatres, cinemas, community clubs and premises open after midnight on New Year’s Eve only.

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