‘High street is dying’: Gaming cafe hits out at high business rates
PUBLISHED: 11:30 05 March 2020
“It’s not fair and it’s not right” - that is the reaction of a Sudbury cafe owner after being suddenly hit with a £4,000 business rates bill after just a few months of trading.
Caffeine Lounge in Sudbury opened its doors on November 30, becoming the UK's largest e-sports gaming cafe and bar after a £300,000 renovation.
However it has already been served with a £4,000 rateable value charge for the first three months of trading with only a few weeks notice to pay, which first-time business owner William Ward said was "unexpected" and is "causing a huge effect".
The Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which sets business rates, said it could not comment on individual cases but said: "The VOA uses a wide range of property information, including rental and other evidence such as location and physical attributes, to compare values across similar types of properties in order to set the rateable value.
"If a ratepayer thinks the details we hold about their property are incorrect, they can see how their valuation has been calculated and update their facts by using our check and challenge service."
However Mr Ward, 29, said: "Obviously I know what the rateable value is for the premises but we didn't expect it to come so soon after opening.
"It's causing a huge effect at the moment because it was so unexpected."
He added: "The high street is dying, retail is dying. We need entertainment venues, things that you can't do at home.
"It's frustrating. I completely understand why a lot of high street businesses go under.
"It's not fair and it's not right."
Mr Ward said Caffeine Lounge was opened to cater for a popular demand in gaming, which has a floor space of approximately 270 square metres.
"I thought this venue in Sudbury would be a great idea," he said.
"So far the reception and the feedback from everyone has been great. The local support has been fantastic."
A spokesman for Babergh District Council said: "We're committed to helping our towns and communities to thrive, and economic growth for local business is key.
"Business rates are set by the VOA not Babergh District Council, but we help our local businesses by offering a range of services, advice and support.
"We've also put steps in place to ensure we can support our high streets by adopting the government's retail rate discounts as quickly as possible."