Wine bar collapse costs council £70k after lease blunder
The closure of a wine cafe in Norwich after four months of trading means councillors face having to write off more than £70,000 of business rates.
The Italian wine bar Veeno opened in Norwich's Castle Quarter in September 2018, as part of the £3m development of the shopping centre's terrace area.
It promised the dining style of Aperitivo, an after-work culture of drinking and eating appetisers, such as cold meats and cheese.
But, within four months of opening, signs appeared in the windows saying it was temporary closed. It never reopened.
And, at a meeting of Norwich City Council's Labour-controlled cabinet next week, councillors will be asked to write off more than £70,000 in business rates.
In the report which will come before councillors, officers state a mistake meant the business rate account payable to the council was originally closed following "incorrect information being provided to us that the owner had accepted surrender of the lease for the premises".
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But the city council was subsequently told the lease did not end until September 24 last year.
That was more than a year since the Veeno Norwich company had been dissolved, so it means £71, 830 in business rates owed cannot be collected.
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Business rates, also known as national non-domestic rates, are a tax on properties which are used for business purposes, such as shops, pubs, offices and warehouses.
Half of the sum collected in the city goes to central government, 40pc to Norwich City Council and 10pc to Norfolk County Council.
In the year up to December 17 last year, Norwich City Council had written off more than £660,000 in business rates.
Officers said: "Significant work continues to be undertaken by the revenues and benefits team to pursue all outstanding debts owing to the council, but due to the ongoing situation surrounding Covid-19, there is uncertainty as to the long-term impact that this will have on our collection and the economy.
"There will unfortunately always be debts where despite our best efforts, it is believed to be irrecoverable.
"This is often because the company owing the money has become insolvent."