Portsmouth publicans’ fears about potential ‘late-night levy’

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STRUGGLING community pubs fear they may have to pay thousands of pounds more if a new late-night levy is introduced.

Publicans are calling on Portsmouth City Council not to take up an option offered by the government to charge premises more towards clean-up costs, policing and the effects of excessive drinking late at night.

The levy could be brought-in city-wide with the council setting the time for when the levy would kick in.

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Barry Kewell, who runs The Northcote Hotel in Francis Avenue, Southsea, and is chairman of Albert Road Pubwatch, said: ‘We are paying enough already in business rates and council tax and everything else.

‘We don’t really get any trouble in Albert Road. The majority of us in the area are independent traders, not part of big companies which could probably write the money off.

‘It’s another kick in the teeth for publicans. If that late -night levy comes in, a lot of businesses will go back to opening until midnight.’

Under new powers, local authorities could introduce restrictions on the sale of alcohol between midnight and 6am – including off-licences and other premises which sell alcohol. But police say no action will be taken without full consultation with licensed premises, the council and other local agencies.

Superintendent Paul Brooks, who is commander for Portsmouth and in charge of licensing for Hampshire police, said: ‘We have a good working relationship with the licensees and we work a lot on trust and support. We’re working to consult all businesses.’

He added: ‘It’s thousands of pounds extra. Business is difficult at the moment.

‘To be fair and to be honest we have got to consider that.

‘What we don’t want is to have people going out of business. But what we won’t tolerate is premises being run badly.’

A decision on potential changes is not expected until next year.

San Van, the city’s night-time economy officer, said: ‘We’ve spent about the last 10 years trying to work in partnership with people.

‘If you are trying to improve an area is it really going to improve the perception of that area?’