Revaluation 'represents major blow to hospitality sector'

The Duke of York in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is set for a 115 per cent hike in NAV
The Duke of York in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is set for a 115 per cent hike in NAV

THE body which represents the north’s drinks trade has claimed that the latest revaluation of hospitality premises has dealt a significant blow to the sector.

Hospitality Ulster claimed that many bars, restaurants and hotels will see a sharp hike in rates bills from April 2020.

Some of Belfast’s best known pubs and venues could see their rates bills more than doubled as a result.

The Duke of York in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is set for a 115 per cent hike in NAV. Nearby, The Harp Bar, is looking at a 166 per cent (£225,000) rise in NAV. Both are owned by Commercial Inns.

Ten Square Hotel, next to Belfast City Hall, is looking at a 124 per cent rise in NAV, or an additional £180,000, while The Merchant on Waring Street is up by £215,000 (39 per cent).

Land and Property Services published its draft revaluations of all 74,000 non-domestic properties in the north on Tuesday. It’s the first time net annual value (NAV) has been adjusted since 2015.

NAV is used together with district and regional rates to calculate bills for businesses.

The process for pubs and hotels is slightly different, with trading information is assessed together with the location, type of premises and services on offer.

The Department of Finance says the process doesn’t generate any additional revenue for the public purse, rather it ensures a fairer redistribution of the burden.

But Hospitality Ulster has labelled the method as “broken”, “antiquated” and “not fit for purpose”.

The drinks body said using a ‘receipts and expenditure model’, calculated from turnover, effectively operates as another form of income tax, with success penalised and lack of profitability ignored.

It has called for business owners to urgently check their new valuations.

Among the companies facing one of the biggest bills in the north is Hastings Hotels, which owns the Europa. NAV at the city centre hotel is up 55 per cent to £800,000. It is also braced for significant hikes at The Grand Central hotel and the Slieve Donard in Newcastle.

Hotels such as Derry’s Bishopgate, Newry’s Canal Court and the Armagh City Hotel are also likely to see heftier bills come April.

Hospitality Ulster’s chief executive Colin Neill claimed business rates were “crippling” the hospitality sector, with firms here paying some of the highest rates in the UK.

“Our antiquated rating system needs radical change and is a major burden for our members. It is not only curtailing growth and dampening any ambition, it is actually impacting the very sustainability of many businesses in the sector,” he said.

“The outworking of this defective model is that in many cases rates look likely to rise considerably and will be a bitter pill swallow for the many who have dedicated their careers to building some of our best known hospitality businesses. In certain cases it could have a catastrophic and negative impact on some livelihoods.”

A major review of the entire business rating process is currently being undertaken by the Department of Finance.