Wednesday 7 October 2020 7:51 pm

Pubs and bars in row over late night levy as 10pm curfew sinks sales

Pubs and bars have urged the government to scrap a tax on late night openings after it emerged many venues are still being charged despite being forced to close at 10pm.

The late night levy is charged by some councils on venues selling alcohol between midnight and 6am as a way of paying for additional policing.

Read more: More than 1,000 UK pubs plead for government help after dire Friday trading following 10pm curfew

But landlords and bar owners have blasted authorities for continuing to collect the tax despite recent coronavirus restrictions that have forced all sites to close at 10pm.

Henry Conlon, chairman of the Camden Inner London Licensees Association, said the ongoing tax was “insensitive to say the least”.

“It has always been an unfair tax,” he told the Camden New Journal. “Now we are having a bit of trouble, they are kicking us when we are down.”

The late night levy, which charges up to a maximum of £4,440 per year, was introduced by the Home Office but is applied and enforced at a local level by individual councils.

While councils are able to delay suspension of licences for any business that fails to pay the levy, they are not able to pause the charge.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the lack of foresight by the government was piling further pressure on the embattled hospitality industry.

“Our industry is under enough government-driven financial pressure as it is and every opportunity should be given to ensure money is saved,” he told City A.M. 

“Time is not on our side”, he added, warning that the next month was critical in saving the sector from collapse.

The row over the late night levy comes as British pubs and bars continue to suffer the impact of months of closures and restrictions on opening hours.

Pub chain Greene King today said it was closing 26 sites and cutting 800 jobs after suffering a sharp fall in sales as a result of the lockdown rules.

Scotland’s night-time economy was dealt a further blow this afternoon as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a ban on alcohol sales indoors for 16 days in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Read more: Greene King to close pubs as 10pm curfew cripples sales

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The government has taken unprecedented action to help pubs get back to business. 

“We have asked local authorities to use their judgement and allow businesses to continue selling alcohol until they are able to pay the levy.”