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’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.
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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