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Night levy on liquor licences by Tower Hamlets Council thrown in jeopardy by lawyers

PUBLISHED: 13:00 28 May 2017 | UPDATED: 15:42 30 May 2017

Night-time economy... London's 'night czar' Amy Lame on tour of Brick Lane on April 6 with Tower Hamlets councillor John Pierce. Picure; REHAN JAMIL

Night-time economy... London's 'night czar' Amy Lame on tour of Brick Lane on April 6 with Tower Hamlets councillor John Pierce. Picure; REHAN JAMIL

© Rehan Jamil

A planned night-time levy selling alcohol after midnight aimed at kerbing drunkenness and anti-social activity has been halted at the last minute.

Brick Lane, centre of bustling night economy in London's East End. Picture: MIKE BROOKEBrick Lane, centre of bustling night economy in London's East End. Picture: MIKE BROOKE

The levy on bars and restaurants by Tower Hamlets Council due to start on Wednesday has been challenged by lawyers because public consultations were “misleading” on which liquor outlets could be charged.

Nor could the levy be legally confined to night-time trouble spots like Brick Lane and Spitalfields in London’s bustling East End, lawyers have warned.

The levy was deemed unlawful by the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers’ lawyers who started a judicial review procedure, following the town hall’s January 20 decision to charge the levy from June 1.

“The consultation was flawed because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the law,” the trade association’s chief executive Kate Nicholls told the East London Advertiser. “It denied businesses all the facts and didn’t state when the levy was to start or that it would only apply to premises selling alcohol after midnight.”

Night-time economy... public meeting on April 6 at St Hilda's community centre in Bethnal Green. Picure: REHAN JAMILNight-time economy... public meeting on April 6 at St Hilda's community centre in Bethnal Green. Picure: REHAN JAMIL

Consultations implied the levy would fall on anyone selling liquor—even if they were closed by midnight, it was pointed out.

The council accepted its consultation was confusing and “likely to mislead” those whose views were being sought, according to licensing lawyers Poppleston Allen, Sarah Clover and Charles Streeten.

Crucial information was left out such as the proposed ‘start’ date needed by businesses “to make an informed decision”.

The council has now been forced to begin consultations all over again, which run till August 23, now specifying licenced premises selling or supplying alcohol between midnight and 6am.

The council’s Head of Service Roy Ormsby said: “We are starting the process again due to the challenge. The money raised can be used to reduce crime, disorder or anti-social behaviour as a way to help fight crime.”

The weekly levy would be £5.75 to £85.38, depending on size of the business.

The council doesn’t have the legal power to limit the charge to ‘hotspots’ like Spitalfields which is plagued by drunkenness and disorder. So it plans to “offer exemptions to some businesses”.

But the retailers plan to oppose any measures that “heap additional costs” on businesses involved in drinking and eating out.


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