Canterbury City Council is looking into a new tax on businesses that sell alcohol after midnight, such as clubs, bars and off-licences, which will fund extra policing and street cleaning but could also see alcohol prices soar and venues shut down.

A new ‘drinks tax’ proposed by the Canterbury City Council last week could mean that Canterbury venues selling alcohol after midnight will pay an extra levy. The new fees are intended to go towards the council expense on extra policing and cleaners required to manage Canterbury’s night-time revellers.

According to reports, 70% of the levy will be paid to the police force, and 30% will go to the council for street cleaning. Barton Councillor Paula Vickers made the proposal at the Canterbury Area Member Panel meeting last week. She has said that “the idea is to give more money to the police so they can patrol the streets and make the area safer, and the council so they can… have more street cleaning.”

The proposal has arrived during Alcohol Awareness Week last week. The councillor argues that Canterbury residents are exasperated with the amount of mess and noise that is caused by party-goers, and that “It simply isn’t fair residents have to foot the bill for costs related to the night-time economy.

“With government cutbacks to funding to the police this levy could pay for additional policing of Canterbury.” While many late-night venues will be wary of these proposed changes, Cllr Vickers argues that “This is not intended to restrict late-night businesses. Safer streets may actually see their profits rise.”

Many pub and bar owners have already expressed discontent with the idea, however. Charles Smythe, a manager of several local pubs including the Black Griffin and Thomas Becket, has been quoted saying “Yes, we do make money out of the students. But why should we be penalised for running a successful business?”

He argues that, on top of VAT, corporations tax and business rates, local pubs and bars could easily close down with the new levy. Noting that “Canterbury has lost so many pubs over the years already.”

A spokesman for Canterbury City Council has said that the council “would want to look at evidence from elsewhere, but so far, only one other council, Newcastle, has imposed this levy, and only quite recently, so evidence of how it operates is quite limited.”

Newcastle instigated the late-night tax earlier this year, which was received poorly by local pubs and bars, some threatening to take legal action against the council. A bar group in Newcastle reportedly argued against the council’s decision, asking “why responsible [venues] should pay for policing lawless thugs, who get cheap alcohol from the supermarkets?” There was concern amongst the Newcastle bars and pubs that the new levy would stifle the city night-life, as venues would need to charge more for drinks to compensate for the money lost on the levy.

The Newcastle scheme, however, is still in its early stages. The council has said that more research into the success of the levy will need to be conducted, while Cllr Paula Vickers thinks that “the proposal has an excellent chance of being carried forward, although to pass through various hoops and red tape I suspect it will not be implemented for about a year.”