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Treasury ‘discriminating’ against venues

23 January 2019

THE GOVERNMENT has been accused of discriminating against music venues over business rates exemption given to pubs and bars, following the substantial rise in business rates in 2017.

In a joint letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond, UK Music CEO Michael Dugher and Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd called for a change in Treasury guidance.

They argue that while pubs and bars receive retail discount, music venues suffer from not being considered part of the same category.

The letter says, “Bars, pubs and music venues have a number of obvious similarities: they are all customer focused experiences whose core business is to provide entertainment, food and drink for the benefit of patrons.

“We kindly ask that you change the guidance by stating that music venues are similar in nature to pubs and bars for the purposes of the scheme.

“If HM Treasury do not revisit this policy, your message to grassroots music venues is that if they wish to obtain similar tax advantages to other similar licensed premises, or even relief from additional taxes, they should turn off the music or close down.”

The Treasury responded to the letter, confirming that music venues are not eligible “unless they are considered by local authorities to be similar in nature to those properties listed in the guidance”.

A Treasury spokesperson tells LIVE UK that music venues “will only be eligible for the retail discount where they are similar to those properties set out in guidance”.

This could mean that a pub that hosts live music would be eligible. It is for local authorities to make the distinction.

The spokesperson added, “There isn’t any scope to include music venues at the moment”, and confirmed that nightclubs that host live music events are also considered “outside the scheme”.

A number of venues across the UK have seen rates increase significantly as a result of a revaluation in April 2017.

For example, The Fleece (cap. 450) in Bristol saw a 304 per cent increase, while the Norwich Arts Centre (260) and The Horn in St Albans (170) incurred rises of 40 per cent.

London’s The Lexington (200) had rates increase by 118 per cent in 2017 but even that was after a revision from an original 234 per cent rise.

“I definitely agree with the letter because there needs to be more provision in place for music venues,” Lexington owner Stacey Thomas tells LIVE UK.

“There doesn’t seem to be any way to define what a music venue actually is in terms of how they calculate, they just look at turnover.”

Licensing expert Michelle Hazelwood of John Gaunt & Partners explains, “Small business rates relief is applicable to retail properties with a rateable value of up to £15,000, which is quite low. “Nightclubs and music venues come under a different category.”

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