Under a scheme drawn up earlier this year licenced premises everywhere in Leeds would have had to pay up to £4,440 a year if they wanted to sell alcohol between 00.30 and 6am.
But now a report from a Leeds City Council committee that has been looking into the issue says the imposition of such a tax – know as the “late night levy” – is a “blunt instrument” and “inherently unfair”.
The report says that the idea should be dropped and effort put in to strengthening existing schemes like Pub Watch and the street and taxi marshals that are funded voluntarily by licencees.
It also suggests that the council do what it can to help local businesses set up what is known as a Business Improvement District in the city centre, which could focus on the night-time economy.
The inquiry findings are going to be discussed at a meeting of the council’s decision-making executive board next Wednesday (18th December). The recommendation from council officers is that the findings be accepted.
The “bar tax” isn’t off the cards forever, though.
“Should a city centre business improvement district not be progressed, or if existing voluntary initiatives are not further developed and enhanced, Members (councillors) may wish to re-consider the issue of a Late Night Levy at some time in the future,” says the council officers’ recommendation.
The committee’s inquiry report said over half the money raised from the suggested tax would come from bars outside the city centre, but most of the cash would most likely be spent on policing in the city centre. Bars in areas like Otley wouldn’t see any return for their extra expense.
“We remain to be convinced that the income generated will be used to the benefit of all payers,” the report said. “Members (councillors) from all political groups stated this would be a very difficult message to deliver within their respective wards.”