Pub chain 
calls time 
early over 
levy plans

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Pub chain JD Wetherspoon is to cut the opening times of its outlets at the weekends in response to late-night levies being introduced by local councils.

The group, which saw its like-for-like sales lift 4.9 per cent in the 10 weeks to July 6, said the late-night levy, which can be imposed by local authorities on licensed premises after midnight, is an unfair tax burden on publicans.

Chairman Tim Martin said “almost all” of the firm’s pubs open until 1am on Fridays and Saturdays, but they will now close early in areas where the levy is introduced.

The levy, designed to pay for late-night policing, ranges between £299 and £4,400 a year depending on the value of the property.

Mr Martin said: “It is not economically viable for us to be open for those two hours over the weekend. Pubs already pay a heavy tax burden compared to other types of businesses.”

The levy has been introduced in Newcastle and Cheltenham and will soon be introduced in the City of London and Islington, with JD Wetherspoon saying it will seek to cut back its opening hours in each case.

The group said no Yorkshire pubs are affected at present, but if a late night levy is introduced in the county it will stop serving alcohol at 11.59pm in order to avoid it.

JD Wetherspoon added that its like-for-like revenues over the last 49 weeks rose 5.4 per cent.

The group said its sales over the World Cup were “slightly weaker”, although it does not brand itself as a sports pub. It banned TVs from its outlets for many years and even now usually has them on with the sound turned down.

The firm has opened 45 pubs in the current financial year to the end of July and will open between 30 and 40 in the next year.