Anger over licence fee hike

Tony Callaghan
Tony Callaghan

WIGAN licencees have united against government plans to charge a levy if they stay open after midnight.

Under a new power that comes into force in autumn, local authorities will be able to impose an annual “late night” levy of up to £4,440 on pubs and clubs that open after midnight.

The regulations are being brought in to ensure venues contribute to the costs of tackling drink-related violence and disorder which stems from extended drinking.

The move is one of a series of measures that will end Labour’s 24-hour licensing regime.

Along with the levy, local councils will also have the power to impose early morning restriction orders to ban the serving of alcohol between midnight and 6am.

But late-night establishments feel they are being penalised and some say they may not even stay open after hours as they can’t afford the demands.

Tony Callaghan, owner of InnTheBar Limited, which runs several bars in the town centre, said: “In Wigan most of the pubs are open until after midnight.

“It would affect everybody in King Street. They would be disappointed to pay a levy to open past midnight in order for them to survive.

“People are going out later and the past government created that problem with 24-hour licensing to get more money from pubs and supermarkets selling cheaper booze.

“The government need to go back to basics and refer to the old licensing laws, rather than crucifying the licensing industry.

“If I was in government, I would go back to traditional licensing times and have staggered hours of opening.

“It used to be better when some places closed at 1am, some at 2am and others at 3am.

“The police, take-aways, and taxi ranks know when people were coming out of the bars and there was more control.”

Brian Gleave, Wigan spokesman for CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), said; “It would mean a lot of money for smaller pubs and a lot of them may not even open after midnight, especially as they are struggling to stay open as it is.

“A lot of traditional pubs may close before midnight, but most would stay open on Friday and Saturday nights.

“The levy should relate to size, as bigger chains could probably afford it.

“This will be a burden on traditional pubs, especially if they are out of town centres, where there is very little trouble.”