Norwich bar owners raise concern over proposals for late night drink levy

Bar and nightclub owners in the city are warning that venues could be forced to shut if councils impose extra charges to help pay for policing.

The late night levy is part of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill which could see licensing authorities charge from �300 to �4,400 depending on the premises.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said the authority is yet to decide whether it will impose the levy – the proceeds of which will be shared with the police – in the city.

However, Toby Middleton, operations manager for six bars and two clubs in the city which are part of Mercy nightclub owner Steve Peri's group, has hit out against the proposals.

He said: 'They are going to turn around and tell me I'm going to have to pay �4,500 per venue. There are going to be a lot of venues that are shutting very, very quickly and then what you are going to do is kill the night-time economy.

'We will have a lot of people unemployed and we will have lost a lot of money.'

Nick De'Ath, chairman of the Norwich Licensing Forum, said: 'It's something which has been talked about for quite a while now. When it does come in we will have to see what it is. It may happen, it may not – it's not a definite.'

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But if it did come in, Mr De'Ath said the night-time economy in places like Norwich might end up paying for it even though problems might not result from the bars and pubs themselves, but supermarkets where alcohol is sold cheaply.

He said: 'It's the same old story. When people go out drinking at night they probably don't start off drinking in the pub – that's where they end up – but its the bars that seem to end up paying for it.'

The late-night levy, which is expected to come in later this year, is not the only proposal being considered in terms of trying to combat the consequences of heavy drinking in our towns and cities.

The Liberal Democrats have their own ideas to help deal with the consequences of heavy drinking. They are considering other ways for councils to raise additional taxes that could include a surcharge on every drink paid for by the customer.

It would offset not just policing but also the costs faced by the NHS for alcohol-related treatment.

Alcohol-related crime and disorder is estimated to cost taxpayers as much as �13bn a year. The NHS bill alone is put at �2.7bn.

While the charity Alcohol Concern welcomes the extra charge on venues, it says it will do nothing to prevent the heavy drinking. Don Shenker, chief executive, said: 'The levy on the drinks industry won't actually address the root cause.

'The way to deter people from drinking too much alcohol is to raise the price of alcohol.'

The city council spokesman said: 'We would have to wait until this becomes law and look at the details around this before we make any detailed comment about the possibility of the city council employing late night levy fees.'

The Evening News contacted Norfolk Constabulary about the levy but no-one was available for comment at the time of going to press.

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