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This is the time of year when undergraduates eagerly look forward to Freshers’ Week and the associated orgy of indulgent behaviour they are led to believe comes with it. Freshers’ Week attained a mythical status years ago and is probably one of the most attractive prospects about beginning a new chapter and life at university; a chance to go wild away from authority figures with other students desperate to try new things and meet new people.

Kate Nicholls UKHospitality Chief Executive

UKHOSPITALITY welcomes Lib Dem rates plans, but calls for immediate relief

UKHospitality has commended the Liberal Democrats’ plans to abolish business rates but stressed that action must be taken immediately to support hospitality businesses crippled by the system.

The Liberal Democrats have today published a blueprint for a replacement of the business rates system with a Commercial Landowner Levy taxing land, rather than property.

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said:

Your own Freshers’ Week may or may not have lived up to the hype, but many budding young students seem to approach this first week away from their parents as if their future success at university over the next three years depends on it. Anything popular inevitably gets monetised and so we now have companies that organise mass pub crawls for hundreds, if not thousands, of students. Rather annoyingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, these mass pub crawls tend to get picked up by national tabloids - focusing on the badly-behaved minority - keen to peddle a false narrative of debauchery and claim that society is circling a tawdry drain of drunken ruin while somebody holds its hair as it vomits into the gutter.

Although some less reputable news outlets like to peddle this myth, the reality is that student unions and associated bodies often mirror the wider hospitality sector and do lots of good for their communities. A number of student unions are members of UKHospitality and actively work with us to promote healthy attitudes to alcohol, often working alongside established, effective schemes such as Best Bar None or the more recent


Drinkaware Club Crew initiative, to keep their students safe on nights out.

These unions are committed to promoting healthier, safer nights out, putting across positive messages about things like drinking in moderation, sexual consent and health, and the realities of recreational drug use. Student unions and campuses provide safe spaces for students and help the hospitality sector challenge unfair perceptions about nights out in the UK. Tabloid newspapers may focus on the on the odd student who finds themselves a little worse for wear in the town centre on a Wednesday night, but the reality is that unions work hard to tackle negative perceptions of students on a night out, beginning with providing clear guidance to revellers.

If you have venues in university towns or cities, it may be worth contacting your local student union to see how you can work in partnership with them to promote their positive messages. That way you can make sure you get young customers, keen to have a fantastic night out, through your doors, while helping to promote a positive image of the late- night sector.

“Despite Government commitments to a fundamental review of business rates, we are still stuck with an out-of-date system that unfairly hits hospitality businesses.

The Lib Dems’ recognition that we need radical reform on rates and a complete overhaul of the system is positive for hospitality businesses. A move away from a property tax is positive, although any future system must also incorporate a tax on digital businesses to ensure they pay their fair share.

We need action immediately, however, or hospitality businesses will continue to struggle against unfair taxes and there will only be further closures. In the short-term, we need to see a freeze of the multiplier, expansion of the pub relief to incorporate the wider sector and positive plans to use digital tax revenue to slash rates for community businesses.”

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