What a relief! Boxpark traders get helping hand from council

Boxpark, the booze and food outlet in a collection of old shipping containers next to East Croydon Station, has been given yet more help from the council in an attempt to staunch its exodus of tenants.

Boxpark traders have been struggling against declining attendance at the venue and rising costs

Boxpark’s dwindling number of tenants have been offered hundreds of thousands of pounds-worth of business rate relief, in an effort to reduce their overheads and persuade them to keep trading.

Since November last year, around a dozen outlets in Boxpark have closed, the traders variously citing poor footfall at the venue, the trading disruption of their landlords’ various music events, and the high and rising costs of operating their variety of street food outlets.

Boozepark opened – a couple of months late – in October 2016, thanks to a £3million loan from Croydon Council.

In its first three years, the Boozepark venue owners will have also received more than £400,000 in subsidies from Croydon Council. The council had a £180,000 budget for an annual, free “Ambition Festival” of music and live performances to be staged around the borough, but that money has been redirected to the privately owned Boxpark venue and used towards its launch party and staging of other, subsequent events.

The council has also used Boozepark for the staging of some of its own events, with Jo Negrini, the chief executive, and council leader Tony Newman, being frequent and enthusiastic visitors.

Business rates, the land tax paid by the users of commercial premises, are collected by local authorities, on behalf of the government. Business rate relief is open to all businesses who wish to apply for it. In the case of the units at Boxpark, it is understood from Town Hall sources that it was the council which took the initiative.

The official government business rates website lists 40 outlets at Boxpark, Croydon – close to the number who were trading at the time of the venue’s launch. According to Boxpark’s own figures, it currently has 29 outlets trading, including its own BoxBar, which was recently relaunched as Coors lager-sponsored BeatBar.

On the lash: council figures, including Tony Newman and (far right) Jo Negrini (with Boxpark owner Roger Wade) are entusiastic attendees at Boozepark

The government website shows that the rateable values of the businesses at Boxpark vary from £6,000 to £60,000 per year.

If taken all together, the Boxpark units might be expected to generate more than £300,000 a year in business rates, which would be divided between the council and central government. Or not, if they receive business rate relief.

The average saving for traders in Boxpark receiving business rate relief could be at least £8,000.

“It’s not a bad idea,” our Town Hall source said, “but are the public officials in our council providing similar, unprompted assistance to other businesses that find themselves in a similar tight economic spot?

“It’s interesting that a solution has had to be found involving the public purse; did no one think of going to Boxpark’s owner and suggesting that he gives his tenants a discount on their rents?”

The appearance of preferential treatment afforded to Boozepark by Newman and Negrini is a cause of simmering resentment among the town centre’s restaurant business and bar operators. Only this week it emerged that another fixture of the High Street, the Beijing Cottage, in the rapidly deserted “Restaurant Quarter”, has closed. It follows the fate of the prestigious Albert’s Table and Bar Txt, among others.

Despite there being a flurry of “good news” stories generated from the council propaganda department in the past fortnight – to beat next week’s election purdah deadline – there’s not been a peep from them about the generous “help” that has been offered to Boxpark traders. According to a Katharine Street source, a press statement had been considered, but was later abandoned.

Can’t think why…

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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11 Responses to What a relief! Boxpark traders get helping hand from council

  1. Dave Scott says:

    Can you imagine a picture of Jo Negrini or Tony Newman’s face smiling out from a grotty high street in the borough? No, they want to be seen to be trendy and ‘with it’. So, Box Park failing is not an option. In Tony Newman’s letter that came with the new Council Tax demand he says he wants to help support the local economy. What a load of old twaddle! Apparently, the rates in Purley went up by over 40% and shops are closing – I don’t see much help going on there, but then again, the high street is not trendy.

  2. farmersboy says:

    Box Park was an awful idea top to bottom. After spending a fortune creating a ‘restaurant quarter’ of mostly takeaways it must have occurred to someone that taking all the trade to another location wasn’t the greatest idea. And £4 for ‘street chips’ which are basically chips but less of them is never going to catch on outside east Croydon station however much you spend on new pavement

  3. David Mogoh says:

    I was there on Wednesday evening and it was fairly busy. I can recommend the Cronx brewery ales (brewed in New Addington apparently). Pricey but good. Having said that, I’m not one for having my beer in a plastic cup (the only option if you want to take your drink in to the open seating areas) so chose to have my drink in the “pub” itself.

    But in fairness, Boxpark looks reasonably popular.

    • Afraid to say David that your judgement, based in one midweek visit, is contradicted by the bottom lines of the 25% of businesses who have left the venue.

      • David Mogoh says:

        Perhaps – although equally it could just be that the 25% of businesses that have left just weren’t suited to the venue?

        • If that’s the case, then maybe the model for the venue is wrong? Remember, Wade sold the concept based on Shoreditch, which is a mix of fashion boutiques, food and bars.

          There’s so many empty units in Croydon now that Wade is offering to give one away, six-months rent-free. That’s not a sign of start-ups and independents queuing round the block demanding to take (high cost) space.

          • farmersboy says:

            Thing is Shoreditch is cool and trendy in a hipster kind of way where people will pay top dollar for vegan pastries. East Croydon is basically a train station and not a destination venue. I think the council have an inflated idea of Croydon. When I told my son I’d moved to Croydon his first words were ‘is that the stabby knife crime place?’ He was 13, lived in Norfolk and had never been to London

  4. derekthrower says:

    Didn’t see a suggestion of rate relief for the businesses of central Croydon when subsidised Box Park was plonked down to raise the developmental profile. The irony of the overpriced and over trendy now having to get hand outs and further reducing the Council’s yield because it is unable to compete with reasonable priced alternatives in the neglected centre is another indicator of the desperate failure of the Council’s Development Policy.

  5. Lewis White says:

    Sad to see any businesses fail. One wonders how high rents are generally, as well as business rates. When consumers feel a lack of confidence, trips to the restaurants reduce. A town cannot live by food alone.

  6. Charles Calvin says:

    Visited Boxpark Croydon at Christmas and was troubled why one glaring thing. It’s in the wrong part of Croydon. Any syntax study will show transport hubs do not sustain the kind of patronage needed to make this type of venture viable. In other words, it’s a Planning mistake. What’s frustrating is that council tax payers now have to supplement this glaring error.

    Planners in this borough need to read a basic Bill Hillier primer and then advance to the next level. These sort of mistakes are costly in the long term and sadly irreparable.

  7. It’s probably come at the wrong time in the redevelopment of East Croydon. If and when all the new luxury towers are built and occupied by city workers with disposable income then it might come good, but at the moment it’s too expensive for the potential market and that’s without putting on stupid music events that put off the people likely to spend money on trendy food. Of course, the new luxury towers may hit the buffers if they turn into ‘ghosts’; too expensive for locals and not enough potential for investors. Being next to East Croydon is convenient for central London only if the Southern Fail trains aren’t coming in already full, I dread the times I have to change at East Croydon during morning peak, I get up especially early to make sure I don’t have to change there. Croydon Council giving Boxpark a helping hand is all very dandy, but only if it is doing the same for all the struggling places in the centre and down South End, otherwise it’s just unfair competition.

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