Bury St Edmunds/Newmarket: Nightclub owner issued with bankruptcy order over “six-figure sum” of unpaid business rates

Inside one of Luminar's Liquid nightclubs.

Inside one of Luminar's Liquid nightclubs. - Credit: Archant

A former nightclub owner has been issued with a bankruptcy order from St Edmundsbury Borough Council to reclaim “a six-figure sum” in unpaid business rates.

The order has been issued against Danny Bird, the director of ITD Contracts, which used to back Brazilias and Vision in Bury St Edmunds.

It comes as an EADT investigation found that a handful of nightclubs in west Suffolk owe around £300,000 in unpaid rates, with St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath calling for a change in the law to clamp down on persistent offenders.

Those behind the debts insist they have done all they can to pay their way, pointing to a struggling industry and “astronomical” business rates that are “completely unachievable” in the current climate.

Mr Bird added that the arrival of Wetherspoons had spelled the end of his enterprise, and called on councils and police to do more to work with pub and club owners from a licensing perspective.

A spokesman from St Edmundsbury said: “This is not a case of a council being heavy handed. The amount that he owed in business rates was a six-figure sum.

“Applying for a bankruptcy order against an individual is a last resort. We will do all we possibly can to avoid this, whether it be through the assessment of a business for rate relief or agreeing a payment arrangement.

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“We endeavour to establish whether the business is unable pay their liability due to financial difficulty, or if they are taking action to avoid paying liability.

“Those having genuine difficulty we will help as much as possible - those who can pay but are seeking to avoid payment will be pursued using the appropriate actions available to us.”

Mr Bird was unavailable for comment yesterday, but had previously told the EADT that venues owned by ITD Contracts - which employed more than 50 people and had a turnover of £2.5million in its heyday - had struggled ever since Wetherspoons moved into the Corn Exchange.

He strongly denied a sinister motivation for not paying his business rates, saying: “It’s no one’s intention to set off on the wrong foot, and it did pay its business rates, but we got into trouble with Vision and were always playing catch-up.

“Wetherspoons came to town and had a big impact - people stayed up that end of town.

“If we did pay the business rates, the business wouldn’t have survived. That’s probably the wrong way of looking at it, but that’s the truth.”

He added there was also confusion over the NRG site at the back of Vision, which he claimed was never actually open but the company was repeatedly billed for.

He also called on St Edmundsbury and police to do more from a licensing perspective to help the town’s nighttime economy.

Two other companies - Mainway Bury St Edmunds and London-based Leafgain Ltd, neither of which has Mr Bird listed as a director - owe a total of £75,000 on Brazilias, Vision and NRG.

In total, £68,500 is owed on Brazilias, £39,500 on Vision, and £92,500 on the disputed NRG since 2010.

A completely different business, Unique Bars Ltd, owes £20,500 for Flex in Bury.

Both St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath are lobbying for a change in the law so they do not have to give premises licences to those they suspect will not pay their rates.

While around £302,000 is owed by the aforementioned nightclubs and De Niros in Newmarket, pubs, bars and clubs across both authorities owe a total of £575,000 - more than a quarter of the total bill outstanding since 2010.

David Ray, St Edmundsbury’s cabinet member for resources and performance, said: “Persistent non-payers of business rates are simply taking advantage of all those who do pay.

“We understand there are occasions when making payment is challenging and we do what we can to help.

“In the case of non-payment by a very small minority of operators of licensed premises, we are also lobbying for a change in national policy that avoids the nonsensical position of handing a premises licence to a repeat offender, knowing it is unlikely that we are going to recover the rates.”

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