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Ronnie Scott’s and 100 Club bosses warn business rate changes will devastate West End

'It’s happening – there are already people going back to countries and saying it is not as exciting as you think'

24 February, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Ronnie Scott’s managing director Simon Cooke

NIGHTCLUB bosses have warned that massive rates hikes could “wipe out” independent music venues and devastate the West End’s night-time economy.

Ronnie Scott’s managing director Simon Cooke and 100 Club owner Jeff Horton told the West End Extra that “independents” needed better protection. Soaring business rates are hitting businesses across the West End and the council has called for an urgent review. “If these proposed rates are brought in it is going to wipe out a huge number of independent businesses…”

Mr Horton said. “There needs to be a common-sense approach to rates. We are struggling now. You just can’t keep squeezing and squeezing.”

The 100 Club, which has hosted the likes of Oasis, Joe Strummer and Queens of the Stone Age, has learnt its rates will rise from around £49,000 to £68,000 a year.

Mr Horton added: “I think the whole issue of independents is coming to a crossroads. “There are people, whether it’s corporate landlords who own buildings, the council, or the taxman, just queueing up trying to bleed us dry.”

Mr Horton said London was already becoming known as a boring city because of the lack of cool gigs at independent music venues, and added: “It’s happening – there are already people going back to countries and saying it is not as exciting as you think.”

Ronnie Scotts’s Mr Cooke, who is expecting a business rates increase of around 25 per cent, said: “It is just another way of chasing people out of bricks and mortar and putting businesses online. Soho has lost a lot of its smaller record stores and cafés, the bigger groups are coming in and the independent operators are struggling to make it all work, and this is just another wallop. The mayor makes a lot of noise about protecting the night-time economy and appointed a night czar.”

He added: “They want there to be a night-time economy. They are running a Night Tube, they are building Crossrail and bringing in 10 million people, so you have to make sure the businesses are there on the other side.”

The council is calling for a full review of the government’s business rates changes. Westminster Cllr Lindsey Hall, deputy cabinet member for business, culture and heritage, said: “Westminster is the shop window to the UK with over 50,000 businesses; the West End alone provides more business taxes for the exchequer than any other place in the UK; £17billion annually. That is why Westminster City Council is leading the way, alongside the city’s businesses, in calling for a full review of the proposed changes and effectiveness of the business rates system. With unprecedented competition from online shopping giants, as well as the highest rental costs in the country, confidence and stability for local businesses – big and small – is more important than ever.”

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