Government proposals to introduce a late night levy on premises selling alcohol have come under further scrutiny in the House of Lords. Some proposed amendments to the licensing section of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill were withdrawn or thrown out at the latest committee hearing, but the late night levy seems to have survived this stage of the consultation process.
The cost of the system is a major issue for the licensed trade. There will be a charge, according to rateable value, on all alcohol licensed premises that open late. According to Baroness Browning, "...it is about raising money for the police" who "...bear the brunt of late night enforcement costs". The levy will apply across the board, with nightclubs, pubs, clubs, restaurants all caught, even if they only open late at weekends, or for New Year's Eve or Bank Holidays.
One effect of this move could be that fewer premises will open late, leading to an increased risk of disorder, drunkenness etc at newly created hot spots in town and city centres. Surely the whole system signals a retreat from the liberalising measures contained in the Licensing Act 2003, which helped create today's popular "cafe culture".
Baroness Browning's view is that "the levy will be a fair and proportionate contribution from businesses to enforcement costs". Detailed guidance and further consultation on fees is promised for local authorities, who are to be given powers to "achieve full cost recovery". Quite how widely these powers will be applied remains unclear.
Amendments to the proposals will, no doubt, be negotiated, but as things stand, it seems fairly certain that a late night levy will become a reality in the next couple of years.