Bars in BID areas may escape new drinking levy

Occupiers in the region's Business Improvement Districts will not have to pay the new Late Night Levy which come into force at the end of this month.

The new regulations allow local authorities to charge a new tax on pubs, off-licenses and other businesses that sell alcohol after midnight.

Councils will have the discretion to exempt businesses that are part of Business Improvement District areas.

The legislation comes into force on 31 October, and the Home Office anticipates that charges will begin being applied by councils in England and Wales as early as next June. Charges will be on a sliding scale and there are a variety of exemptions which councils can apply.

Jacquie Reilly, director of the Association of Town Centre Management's National BIDs Advisory Service, said: "The draft guidance originally called for charges to apply unless the BID focused entirely on the night-time economy. However, a survey of our BID members showed that 97% undertook projects and services for the nighttime economy but less than 1% of BIDs were entirely focused on it.

"Our aim has been to ensure the guidance does not limit the exemptions to the 1%."

Licensing authorities will be able to impose a Late Night Levy on all premises within their area who are selling alcohol between midnight and 6am. Requests to consider introducing a levy can come from anyone in the area but it is anticipated that the majority of requests will come from local Police forces.

The licensing authority will be required to undertake a consultation before making a decision and the levy will cover the entire Licensing Authority area. A maximum of 30% can be retained by the local authority with the remaining 70% to be spent by the police.

Reilly added: "The stark contrast between a BID, which delivers services to address issues the local business community have identified and agreed to fund through a democratic voting process and the Late Night Levy, which can be imposed by Local Authorities has not been lost on businesses.

"We remain concerned that faced with a compulsory levy with no say in how it is spent, businesses in existing and prospective BID areas will feel they have no choice but to vote against extending or introducing the managed approach to BIDs that is offered, despite their track record of success.

"We need to ensure locations which already have a positive and proactive local business community contributing to a BID are exempt from a Late Night Levy."

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