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How the night-time levy could affect Cheltenham pubs and clubs

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: February 18, 2013

Working:   Assistant manager at Bentleys Bar  Angela Whitefield

Working: Assistant manager at Bentleys Bar Angela Whitefield

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CONTROVERSIAL plans to introduce a late-night levy for pubs and clubs in Cheltenham have caused a stir among the town's licencees.

Under proposals drawn up by borough council officers, venues could be forced to pay up to £4,400 a year if they want to stay open beyond midnight.

The money would be used to pay for the council to clean up the streets and to provide extra police resources to deal with booze-related disorder.

We talk to club and pub staff who would be affected by the move.

INTRODUCING a late-night levy might sound like a good idea – but there could be repurcissions for pubs and clubs.

Under the proposals, made possible by a change in Government regulations in October, councils will be able to impose a fee on businesses profiting from the night-time economy.

After a number of drunken assaults in the town and large numbers of revellers ending up in A&E departments after an alcohol-fuelled evening, Cheltenham Borough Council decided to look at imposing a fee on pubs and clubs open after midnight.

The money, which would be calculated on the rateable value of the premises, would be split between the borough council and Gloucestershire Constabulary.

Under the proposals, 30 per cent would be given to Cheltenham Borough Council to use for crime reduction and in cleaning up after drinkers.

The remaining 70 per cent would go to the police, to be spent on getting officers out on the streets.

But those who would have to pay the levy are concerned about how the loss of earnings might affect their business.

After the Echo reported that both the Hop Pole in Gloucester Road and the Fox and Hounds in Prestbury Road had closed in difficult times, other pubs have voiced concerns about how they might struggle to balance the books with yet another levy placed upon them.

Bentley's Bar, in the High Street, would be one of the venues affected by the levy as it opens until 3am every day.

Manager Angela Whitefield said: "It's a lot of money to pay on top of what we already pay, including business rates.

"I don't think it would be fair to charge a venue like ours the same amount as you would for a nightclub, where people are doing three-for-one offers and that kind of thing.

"Our clientele aren't the kind of people who go out there causing trouble on the streets, so it seems disproportionate if we pay as much as some of the other clubs which target a different audience.

"We already pay for security staff on the door past 11pm and so, in terms of controlling, our own area we already do our bit.

"It seems to me the venues who are going to find it difficult to afford this tax are the smaller ones – and not necessarily the ones which are causing the majority of the problems."

She added that the step would encourage a move back to the time before 24-hour drinking laws were brought in.

"They brought in 24-hour drinking to stop people rushing to drink a lot in a short space of time," she added.

"If this comes in, it will be going back to how it was before with more – more venues will close earlier so people will have to drink in a shorter space of time."

Alan Meaden, landlord of the Suffolk Arms pub, said the levy would bring problems of its own.

"You would get more pubs shutting at midnight to avoid the levy – so you'd get a flood of people heading into the town centre who have already had a lot to drink all at the same time," he said.

Borough councilors are set to discuss the scheme later this year – possibly as soon as April.

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15 comments

  • wine6832  |  February 20 2013, 6:55PM

    Personally with living in town near some clubs and pubs its a good idea. Just because certain people can go out any night of the week and not consider others. I'm not saying you shouldn't go out, yes I go out and yes I drink more than I should, HOWEVER I do not feel the need to vandalise peoples property, make as much noise as possible, get into a fight and generally just take anti-social behavior to a new level! Yeah, fair enough go out, drink what you want (you will pay for it the next morning) but what is so difficult about NOT screaming and shouting about everything, causing fights, littering and all the rest of it that goes with these irresponsible inconsiderate people. Its really nice stepping out of my front door in a morning to broken glass, rubbish and puke - NOT! My partner has a motorbike which is normally parked outside of our flat. On more than five different occasions (all on nights when the night club is open) it has been pushed over breaking the indicators break levers, left led on the floor, scratched, attempted to be nicked, mirrors snapped off...all this because some people can't control themselves. I work full time, up early (as in 5am) nearly every morning I get woken most nights by drunk anti-social people screaming and the like from around 3am. I am damn sure that if it were THEM trying to sleep, THEM who had work the next day, THEY would be raging!! We not only live near a nightclub but open late pub as well. On the nights which the club is closed and the pub open there is rarely any trouble, when the nightclub is open nearly every night something happens. Late opening pubs and clubs should have to pay, it is partially their fault that these 'louts' are allowed to get into the state that they do - if you believe someone has drunk too much you can refuse to serve them - also most of the time its always the same people with the anti-social behaviour yet the clubs do nothing about it unless its 'in their club'. I know many pub owners and those located near residential homes tell those being loud or antisocial to calm it down or to leave and they enforce this. They have been in business for many many years and are still thriving - they get many more regular customers especially those from the surrounding properties because they are taking responsibility for the licence they have. This all equates to one thing really - CONSIDERATION, if you wish to open late, ply irresponsible people with as much booze as you can have before passing out they should pay for clean up, policing and the like. Yes I realise this is a bit of a rant but I know many many people feel the same.

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  • Ms_Superstar  |  February 20 2013, 4:36PM

    I would imagine that having more police would not make them any more likely to attend somewhere like Dunalley Parade or Brunswick Street. They respond to the pubs and clubs in the town centre because it's easier for them to catch people, especially after the private security bods have done all the hard work. Jimmy Elias once said to me that one of his staff put a call out, only to have two vans and six cars turn up at once! There are some good community coppers, and I know that Cheltenham North has a good sergeant and a good inspector. I live right in the town centre. I've invested in some good thick curtains and never have trouble sleeping. Incidentally, you might be surprised how easy it is accidentally to cause offence. That's why they have red arrows on here, and why cars are equipped with horns. Even Dancing Ken was once chucked out of a pub, and he's the most inoffensive person I know.

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  • whiteangeluk  |  February 18 2013, 8:23PM

    It was only a few years ago there were pubs and clubs that closed most nights at 11pm only staying open till 2am on a Friday Saturday night. Now we have them staying open most nights, so we get woken early every Tuesday morning and every Thursday approx 3am than we go the noise or the anti social behaviour on the weekends. As for security at clubs and pubs in town they only secure around the pub or club they work for, they do not follow them down the high street or to their homes , so it's case of out of sight out of mind. I agree that charging the clubs that cause some of this as they supply the drink often very cheap to encourage people to drink to much. So much that people accidentally causing offence, how they can accidentally cause offence not sure. I know you are lucky if you need the police on some of these drink nights that pubs and the clubs lay on, than you can't get a officer to call as they are out dealing with people accidentally causing offence. So this money if it means the police can patrol the clubs and high street with out takeing other police staff from the public, than it must be a good call.

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  • whiteangeluk  |  February 18 2013, 8:23PM

    It was only a few years ago there were pubs and clubs that closed most nights at 11pm only staying open till 2am on a Friday Saturday night. Now we have them staying open most nights, so we get woken early every Tuesday morning and every Thursday approx 3am than we go the noise or the anti social behaviour on the weekends. As for security at clubs and pubs in town they only secure around the pub or club they work for, they do not follow them down the high street or to their homes , so it's case of out of sight out of mind. I agree that charging the clubs that cause some of this as they supply the drink often very cheap to encourage people to drink to much. So much that people accidentally causing offence, how they can accidentally cause offence not sure. I know you are lucky if you need the police on some of these drink nights that pubs and the clubs lay on, than you can't get a officer to call as they are out dealing with people accidentally causing offence. So this money if it means the police can patrol the clubs and high street with out takeing other police staff from the public, than it must be a good call.

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  • geraint2010  |  February 18 2013, 2:07PM

    Excellent idea! The council must raise extra funds from somewhere so better it be from frivolous early hours drinking, funded by too much disposal income, rather than upping council tax which would cause the less well off to cut back even more on life's essentials.

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  • georgette2010  |  February 18 2013, 1:31PM

    A few simple solutions to the problems mentioned in this article. Firstly, litter. It comes from the numerous takeaways in the town. Make the staff or owners of these establishments do a litter patrol in the nearby vacinity. They are the original source of the problem. The pavement "pizza problem" can be rectified with a quick bucket of water and disinfectant and a stiff broom. People needing treatment in A&E, or a "taxi ride" in an ambulance. Charge them for it! The staff have better things to do with their time and it would bring valuable income to our cash starved NHS. Penalising all drinking establishments by the introduction of a late night levy is unfair, as many places are well run and would not serve alcohol to people who appear totally intoxicated and incoherent. Perhaps the poorly run bars need to ensure that all their staff are "educated" i.e holders of a BIIAB Personal Licence, instead of cutting corners and employing bar staff on the cheap who just want a Saturday job! Get professional, because the licenced trade is a profession!

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  • CaptCX  |  February 18 2013, 12:39PM

    Just a thought...................... Imagine, for a moment, if these charges came in now and everything closed at Midnight. What do people think is going to happen? My guess is that people will start drinking earlier - say 6pm instead of 8pm - and they will drink quicker, meaning that they will get more drunk, earlier........and then everyone gets kicked out onto the streets at 1 minute past midnight. What do we think will happen then? Of course, it's unlikely that this will happen - instead, you'll get many of the places with late opening hours close down, meaning that only a few will stay open. They will then be able to charge late night revellers pretty much what they want in admission costs and drinks prices.........something else which won't improve the mood of those wanting to stay out after midnight. The current problem could be solved by the council refusing late licences for those establishments where the police advise them trouble makers are frequenting. The trouble makers themselves could be dealt with by a 'banned from one - banned from all' policy which the establishments could band together to make work. If someone who is banned tries to get in and cause trouble, then the police are called and the offender gets arrested and then given a curfew. If these measures were put in place, couldn't Cheltenham's nightlife be improved to the point where it was attractive to visitors from out of town, making it a winning situation all round?

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  • Ms_Superstar  |  February 18 2013, 11:45AM

    Barbara Driver said "without a shadow of doubt people are drinking too much". She is technically correct. I drink more than is good for me, but I've never been arrested or ended up in A&E as a result. But as long as the council keeps sprinkling liquor licences around like confetti, how is this going to change? Certainly not by putting more policemen on the street, and certainly not by a time-of-day based levy. As people who are in a position to know have already said that such a levy will be counter-productive by raising revenue to fund the same or more trouble from fewer premises. Too much alcohol has long term effects including obesity and liver damage, but does not cause violence where the propensity for violence does not already exist. Causes of violence include jealousy, domestic disputes where perhaps a couple have spent more money or drunk more than they planned, people accidentally causing offence or, rarely, someone out deliberately looking for trouble . Such violence does often involve drunkenness, but this is because of a blurring of the boundaries of acceptable behaviour, rather than drunkenness being a cause.

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  • supernova1  |  February 18 2013, 11:30AM

    All take-aways and pubs/clubs should be charged. I don't go into town while shopping, and chuck my guts up on a regular basis, abuse the staff, chuck my litter all around. But evening/night-time, it's a different customer base. The clearing up costs are phenomenal, and so every bar/club/take-away should be charged. The litter from Miccy D's is incredible. Yet there's an easy answer. Charge 50p per bag, carton, etc, and then refund it when returned. This will either stop the $cr0t£e$ from chucking it all around the town (even right down Bristol Rd) or it will provide an income from a third party that comes along and clears it up and takes it back to the the take-away. Like the woman with eleven children, I'm fed up with the majority paying for the actions of a minority.

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  • BaldSeagull  |  February 18 2013, 11:18AM

    Ms_Superstar, firstly, I'm not saying the levy is a good or bad thing. That said, I live in the centre of town next to a nightclub, and I can confirm in the time I've lived here, I don't remember any fighting, vandalism, people on their hands and knees vomiting, bottle throwing, screaming arguments or people passed out drunk in the alleyway BEFORE midnight. It's ALWAYS in the early hours of the morning, near to or after closing time.

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