The trade has reacted with concern to proposed amendments to the Policing and Crime Bill, with fears they will make late night levies a 'first port of call' for local authorities, rather than a 'last resort'.
Late night levies were first introduced by the Home Office to divert the cost of 'problems' caused by the late night economy away from taxpayers, and directly to businesses that sell alcohol between midnight and 6am. Currently, only a limited number of local authorities have introduced them.
The latest amendments to the Policing & Crime Bill are due to be debated by the House of Lords at committee stage on October 26. They would allow for the late night levy to be restricted geographically, enable police and crime commissioners (PCCs) to request a levy consultation, and require local authorities to publish information on how levy-raised funds are spent.
However, trade bodies have reacted strongly to the news saying the changes are 'unfair' and will restrict growth.
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) chief executive, Kate Nicholls said: 'These amendments shift the legislation further away from the government's stance in its original guidance; that the late-night levy should only be a last-resort, when other options have been exhausted.
'These new measures would introduce a degree of transparency, but this sort of punitive measure could quickly become the first port of call for local authorities. Allowing the levy to be restricted geographically and giving PCCs the power to request a consultation could potentially make it much easier for a council to introduce a levy.
'These amendments have been introduced at the eleventh hour, with no detailed public consultation.'
Nicholls added that it was encouraging councils to explore partnership schemes before considering the levy. Cheltenham Council is currently looking at scrapping its levy in favour of a Business Improvement District, it said.
British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) chief executive Brigid Simmonds, said: 'This will make it easier for local authorities to impose a late night levy – something the BBPA has always been against, as it is a tax and not a local partnership.
'We are therefore against the flexibility that is being proposed, which would allow local authorities to impose this tax on particular geographic areas, rather than the whole local authority.
'The changes to Cumulative Impact Policies to put them on a statutory footing should only be justified by evidence, and it is important that each application for a new licence, or variation of a licence, is considered on its own merit.
'Local authorities need to think carefully about how a late night levy could affect a vibrant night-time economy and whether partnership with local businesses, such as through a Business Improvement District, would not be better for both residents and local businesses.'