Council rules out plan for late-night bar levy

Blitz on booze
Blitz on booze
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WIGAN Council has no plans to implement a late-night levy to help combat crime and disorder as part of its new approach to boost the borough’s night economy.

Instead the town hall will take a default “no” position on new applications for town centre alcohol licences to ensure booze-related disorder does not get any worse.

This new policy will help better protect these two areas and encourage more of the family friendly businesses which play just as an important part of our economy as established premises which are well run

Lord Smith

The tough new stance, which will be unveiled as part of the council’s new licensing policy statement this week, is hoped to encourage a more “family friendly” atmosphere and promote “cultural activities” in areas blighted by regular outbreaks of violence.

Leader of Wigan Council Lord Smith said: “We are committed to making our town centres attractive, accessible and vibrant places for people to work and visit. But we cannot ignore the negative impact that late night licences has had on Wigan and Leigh town centres.

“This new policy will help better protect these two areas and encourage more of the family friendly businesses which play just as an important part of our economy as established premises which are well run.”

The policy will mean new bids for alcohol licences will be knocked back unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated although the town hall said “each case will be taken on its individual merits.”

This measure will not apply to existing licence holders but will come into effect for renewals and applications for temporary event notices.

As will a new framework for opening and closing times which will see off-licences operating between 8am to 11pm and for on- premises licenced venues to not open later than 11pm Sunday to Thursday and no later than 3am Fridays, Saturdays and bank holidays.

Despite being outlined in the policy statement as an option, council bosses have told the Observer they have no current plans to introduce late-night levy in the borough.

Having been introduced in a number of city centres across the country, the move has proved controversial with licensees opposed to the extra charge.

Tony Callaghan, who operates a number of bars and clubs across the borough said: “I think we have enough with tax and rates without an extra levy. And it would have to apply to takeaways and taxi firms, not just bars and clubs, it would have a knock-on effect. In my opinion I think we can do without it as it stands.”

On the new approach to town centre licenses, Mr Callaghan supported the council’s overall approach. He told the Observer: “I think it’s a good idea. It wasn’t the council that introduced 24 hour drinking laws, it was the government, and that has caused a shift in drinking patterns.”

“People now go out later than before because places are open until the early hours. I would support a move back to more traditional opening hours. `

“This seems to be quite positive to encourage a family friendly atmosphere but it’s another thing whether it can hold up in law when new applications come in.”

In Wigan town centre the policy will be applied to bars, pubs, nightclubs and food takeaways while in Leigh this will apply to bars, pubs, nightclubs and off-licences.