HUNDREDS of pubs are set to ditch 24-hour drinking because of a new “stealth tax” leading to fears of an increase in booze-fuelled violence.
More than 400 pubs in Doncaster are set to be forced to pay an additional charge to stay open late, feared to be thousands of pounds per year, if government plans to cut binge drinking are passed.
But pub bosses fear premises will close earlier to avoid the tax, leading to thousands of revellers spilling out onto the streets at the same time sparking a surge in drunken violence.
Francie Marron, landlord of the Horse and Groom in East Laith Gate and chairman of the town’s Pubwatch, feels the move increases the strain on the police.
Mr Marron, said: “Doncaster is in the top ten places for a safe night out nationally because Pubwatch, Doorstop (the regulated bouncers scheme) and the police work well together.
“If the levy is £100 landlords will most likely pay it, but if it is £3,000 to £5,000 they will just close early. It is just another stealth tax.”
Mr Marron also feels that large chains which could afford the levy will simply pay it making it more difficult for people who run their own establishments.
Doncaster Council’s licensing committee has been asked for its views to the Home Office on plans to bill landlords an extra late night levy in a bid to reduce binge drinking, violence and drunken damage.
The levy would be a blanket fee to every premises with a late night licence and would be split between the police and council to be used to help pay for officers and clean-up operations.
But members of the committee objected to the plans, saying village pubs could close as a result and that it will see gangs on the streets at the same time.
Coun Glyn Jones said: “Before 24-hour drinking everyone would leave clubs at 2am and there would be hundreds of people milling around and that is when the trouble happens.
“With staggered closing times you just don’t have this problem.”
Paul Williams, of Best Bar None, the scheme set up to promote responsible drinking, told the meeting that there could be an option for licensed premises which are part of the project to get discounts on the levy as they already have to meet high security standards.
However, he accepted this would be unfair to village pubs which never call on extra police support.
If the Government introduces the plans, Doncaster Council will also be able to implement localised Early Morning Restriction Orders, limiting pubs in certain areas to stricter opening and closing hours.
The committee said it would want members clubs, theatres and Robin Hood Airport to be exempt from the levy, and that there was an exemption on New Year’s Eve.
The consultation period will end on April 10.
South Yorkshire Police was unavailable for comment.