The levy, due to be introduced on 1 April 2015, will be used to cover the extra costs the night time economy presents to the city, including charges for policing crime and anti-social behaviour. It expected to raise around £100,000 a year, which will be split between the police and the council.
Businesses subject to the levy will be charged between £299 and £4440 annually.
Councillor Satvir Kaur, cabinet member for Communities and Events at Southampton City Council said: “The council and our partners, such as the police, share the responsibility for keeping people safe and limiting the effects the night time economy has on surrounding communities. We have a number of successful initiatives in place to achieve this but these come at a cost to local taxpayers.
“We have therefore decided to take the government’s advice to implement a late night levy on businesses authorised to supply alcohol after midnight. We believe it is fair and reasonable that companies benefitting from the night time economy should contribute to the costs it generates.”
Undermining other schemes
The announcement that the motion to introduce a levy was successful was not received well by the licensed trade, with the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) expressing its disappointment at the news.
ALMR chief executive Kate Nicholls said: “There is a danger that this levy may undermine support and funding for best-practice schemes, such as Best Bar None, already in place in Southampton, which the Council recognises already make the city a safe and enjoyable late-night destination.
“The ALMR has been vocal in its recommendation that local authorities should always pursue voluntary measures and partnership schemes before resorting to punitive measures. We believe that a late-night levy should only be introduced as a last resort when all other options have been exhausted and where there is clear evidence of specific problems.”
Hotels and restaurants
Southampton hotels are exempt from paying the levy if they are only serving alcohol to guests staying overnight at the premises. However the hotels will have to pay it if they plan to sell alcohol after midnight at late night events held on the premises or to customers who are in the hotel bar or restaurant late and do not intend to stay overnight.
Deputy chief executive at the British Hospitality Association Martin Couchman told BigHospitality that the levy could present hotels and restaurants in the city with a dilemma.
“The view generally taken by hotels is if they have any sort of late night business other than rooms, which most of them are likely to, then economically it’s probably worthwhile paying the levy,” explained Couchman.
“But they resent it because there’s no evidence that people coming out from banquets at hotels are causing any problems.
“So hotels are put in a dilemma and restaurants have to make a straightforward choice. If they decide they won’t pay the levy, they are able get a free change to their licensing conditions. But if the levy is scrapped later on then they’d have to apply to get the right to sell alcohol after midnight back again, and of course they might be refused this, and they’d have to pay to get it.
“So all the logic points to keeping your current condition which means accepting that you’ll have to pay towards the levy every year, even though you’re probably not contributing to the problem. It’s most unsatisfactory and it’s really tricky for businesses to know how to react.”