Onerous hotel bar levies and hotels on the moon
Onerous hotel bar levies and hotels on the moon
22 JULY 2019 9:32 AM

With local authorities claiming they are strapped for cash, hotel and stand-alone bars might appear to be an easy target for additional levies and taxes. And on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, tales of Hilton’s planned moon hotels surface once again.

The European office of STR, the parent of Hotel News Now, is in London, specifically in the London Borough of Southwark, an area immediately south of the River Thames that has seen a remarkable rise in the last 20 or so years.

Occasionally at lunchtime, colleagues and I troop off for lunch at Frank’s Café, which when I was a child was the only restaurant business on Southwark Street, is on the main street here. The café—well, more what we call a “caff,” which generally serves bacon, eggs, chips, pies, baked beans, that kind of thing—had few neighbors of any type as I remember.

Now STR/HNN’s neighbors include all manner of fast-food restaurants—mostly good ones—several hotels, pubs, bars and design shops. All of this is anchored by the Tate Modern museum and a business-improvement organization called Better Bankside; Bankside is a new moniker for this part of Southwark.

On 17 July, the London Borough of Southwark imposed a levy on bars, including those in hotels that stay open after midnight.

Those who oppose the levy say the move not only will affect their businesses but has been put into law merely to raise extra revenue for the council’s coffers. According to my sources, a meeting between businesses and local councilor politicians was canceled at the last moment.

The levy ranges from £229 ($286.34) per year to £1,365 ($1,706.78) per year depending on the business’ ratable value. Some reductions are available.

When I was younger, all pubs closed at 11 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and 10:30 p.m. on Sundays. Now, to stay open past midnight requires a special license, and many businesses decided to get the paperwork done so they had the opportunity to extend their hours on special occasions such as New Year’s Eve.

Most of the year, such businesses close at 11 or thereabouts and are happy to do so, but they did have the legal ability to once in a while stay open.

These businesses will have to cough up, too.

It appears this is a copy-cat decision as 11 other London boroughs have imposed this levy, according to public-house industry magazine The Morning Advertiser.

The London Borough of Redbridge decided to delay its levy for more consultations, but it is not either as central as Southwark and does not contain as many nightlife options.

UKHospitality, the principal lobby organization for the United Kingdom hospitality, opposes the Southwark decision and will continue to lobby against it.

Hoteliers should keep an eye on this and help out if moved to do so.

Man and hoteliers on the moon
I turned on my TV this week only for the Cricket World Cup final. My American colleagues allowed me to gush a lot about England’s victory, even though they cannot understand a single rule, or probably what is the point.

But all this week, the TV listings seemed fixated on one subject—the 50th anniversary of the first man to step onto the surface of the moon, and quite rightly so.

The actual date was 20 July 1969, and as I was reading about Neil Armstrong and his colleagues’ adventures, I came across Hilton’s plans to build a hotel on the moon, what I now see is a near-legendary tale of the Lunar Hilton.

The plans for the hotel supposedly were sketched out in 1958, at the beginning of the Space Race with the Soviet Union, so there is nothing like being prepared, as all hoteliers know.

Tales of a lavish kick-off event for the proposed hotel exist, as does a hotel registration form (subject to confirmation) and mockup room keys. The form states there are three accommodations types: a single room, a double and a Cloud Suite, and guests needed to add if they required an intergalactic transfer.

Some Hilton insiders have suggested the idea was never a serious plan, more one about the need to think large, dream big and understand what guests would want, but this is a wonderful snippet of history that adds yet more color to an epic moment of U.S. and global history.

It appears that the original idea for a moon-based hotel perhaps turned into an idea for a hotel that instead orbited the moon.

Two years ago, an interesting article was written by Daniel Oberhaus, staff writer at Wired magazine, that throws light on some of the hotel’s background. But what’s more enjoyable is to realize much of what went on is lost in space and conjecture.

I do remember a plan for the Moon Resort Las Vegas in the early 2000s, which at the time would have probably broken spend records. The plans had a budget of $5 billion, 250 acres of land and 10,000 rooms.

Everything would have been moon-themed, but it seems the developer could not get his dream off the ground, either.

The moon, seemingly, takes a long time to reach.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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