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Music venues benefit from business rates reduction

News
10 March 2020

FOLLOWING THE Government’s announcement of a business rates reduction for high street retailers, which includes small and mid-sized venues across the UK from spring (see LIVE UK issue 241), more information has come to light on the criteria applicants must meet in order to be eligible.

HM Treasury stated that venues in England and Wales with a rateable value up to £51,000 could be granted a 50 per cent business rate relief from 1 April.

Further detail comes from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Authorities, which has issued guidance to local authorities in England that will be adopting a local scheme and determining when to grant relief under the retail discount 20/21.

The policy covers “hereditaments [heritable properties] wholly or mainly used for the performance of live music for the purpose of entertaining an audience”, which excludes venues that are wholly or mainly used as a nightclub
or theatre.

Premises can be classed as live music venues if used for other activities but only if those activities are “merely ancillary or incidental to the performance of live music”, such as the sale of alcohol or infrequent uses that don’t affect the primary purposes, such as community events.

Venues below a rateable value of £12,000 do not pay business rates (LIVE UK issue 241),

Music Venues Trust (MVT), which lobbied for the changes, along with industry umbrella organisation UK Music and the Musicians Union, estimates that £1.7 million will be released back into the grassroots live music sector, with an average reduction in rates of £7,500 per year for 230 grassroots venues likely
to be affected.

However, MVT declines to name the 230 venues, which it says are members of its Music Venues Alliance.

Promoter and multi-venue owner DHP Family owns Thekla (cap. 600) in Bristol, which has a rateable value of £31,000 and is therefore eligible.

“We intend to claim for Thekla, but we’ve got three venues that are smaller, hardly make any money whatsoever, and are heavily penalised in terms of business rates that aren’t eligible for the relief,” says Julie Tippins, head of risk management for DHP Family.

“We reckon Thekla will save around £7,500 a year with the 50 per cent relief, but we have to go through the application process and see whether it works out.”

Among DHP Family’s smallest venue are The Bodega (220) and Rescue Rooms (450), both in Nottingha, along with Oslo (375) and The Garage (400) both in London.

Max Harvey, who co-owns The Craufurd Arms (250) in Milton Keynes along with Jason Hall, called the scheme “a victory” for music venues”.

“We haven’t looked into it yet but we look forward to applying as the saving would benefit us greatly. Our next project for the venue is putting in a gender-neutral accessible toilet.”

According to the government’s website, the venue has a rateable value of £30,800 and Harvey says he currently pays over £1,500 monthly in rates, meaning the venue would save around £750 a month.

“It shows the government is listening to the sheer amount of struggling venues and how important independents are to our infrastructure of music venues across the country.

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