Glasgow’s new outdoor area fee plan is a ‘nightmare’


CHANGES to the way Glasgow City Council structures its fees for outdoor areas have been described as a ‘nightmare’ by local operators.

From this month, the fees for using pavements and other public spaces for outdoor seating will change from a flat fee of £515 for city centre businesses and £275 for those outside the city centre, to charging by the square metre.

Businesses in the city centre will now be charged £60 per square metre, with those outside of the city centre charged either £30 per square metre or £15 per square metre, depending on whether they are designated as a ‘local town centre’ or ‘neighbourhood’ location.

An operator in the west end told SLTN the new fees are ‘a nightmare’. 

“We used to pay around £220 for a whole year – at £30 a square metre this will be increased to around £1200 per year,” they said. 

“I’m not sure how Glasgow City Council can justify this, they’re already hiking rates across the city and now this is just another kick while we’re down.”

Alexander Riches, operations manager for the St Luke’s & the Winged Ox and Amsterdam venues, said the cost for the Amsterdam’s outside area is set to rise to £6000 a year under the new system. 

“Here’s hoping we have a summer and can actually make use of the space to offset this cost,” he said. 

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said the new structure was designed to address a funding gap in the council’s budget. 

“Faced with a funding gap of almost £50m, the budget sought to protect jobs and services where ever possible and raise revenue where appropriate,” he said. 

“The new approach to charging will be based on the square metres occupied by an outdoor area and also where in the city an outdoor area is located.

“It will ensure charges will be proportionate to the size of the outdoor area and the level of resources required to administer and enforce the permits for each permit rather than applying flat rates.

“The welcome increase in outdoor areas during the COVID pandemic has placed an additional demand on our resources that manage these spaces.

“We believe that charging proportionately is a fairer way to providing permission for using public space for outdoor areas for bars and cafes.”

But speaking to SLTN on behalf of the Strathclyde Licensed Trade Association, Billy Gold, licensee of the Hielan Jessie in Glasgow, said the new system is ‘really unfair’ at a time the hospitality industry is under ‘horrendous cost pressures’. 

“I know the council is under horrendous cost pressure themselves, but I think it would be a mistake to try and milk hospitality for a wee bit more, given that some businesses – mine included – are working to very tight margins now,” said Gold. 

“If I passed on the increases that suppliers have given me and what I needed to get to cover my utilities, my insurance, I’d be sticking 20p or 30p on a pint, 20p or 30p onto a single measure of spirits. And that’s just not do-able, because my customers’ electricity bills are also going up. Consumer confidence is fragile, discretionary spend is getting hammered.

“Fair enough, possibly charge slightly more for the application. But charging by the square metre, I think, is – to use Glasgow parlance – ripping the arse out it.”