City of Fremantle taxpayers likely to pay nightclub tab if charges drop

Nightclubs in Fremantle are awaiting a reprieve on council tariffs to help the entertainment sector defend against COVID-19 related closures and disruption.

However, the move is likely to be costly for local households and other local business owners, with City of Fremantle staff suggesting a 6% rate hike for most of its other ratepayers.

Fremantle’s 2022-23 rating strategy, with the suggestion to scrap higher nightclub rates, was due to be reviewed by a board committee on Wednesday.

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Under the proposal put forward by Fremantle City Business Manager Matt Hammond, all businesses in the port city’s CBD would be in line for some form of tariff relief – possibly even a reduction in tariffs – to counter the effect of CPI increases.

But regular ratepayers would be forced to pay more to balance the council’s books, with even the region’s cheapest fares set to rise 6% from last year.

“It is recommended that the rest of the rate categories be adjusted upwards to negate the impact of the adjustments on downtown retail and nightclub rates,” Mr. Hammond wrote in a report to council.

If approved as prepared, venues such as Metropolis Fremantle and Hugos would be spared a ‘nightclub tax’ and considered paying like all other CBD businesses for the first time in over a decade .

Mr Hammond proposed that minimum rates for households and businesses be set at $1,481, up $84 from this year.

Owners of vacant residential land would pay at least $1,434, or $81 more than this year.

The committee was asked to approve the advertising of the rate plan for public comment for three weeks before the full board reviews and locks down the final version to support its 2022-23 budget.

East Fremantle also announced its proposed fares, underpinned by a desire to generate 3% additional fares revenue over 2021-22.

The announced proposal sets minimum rates for households at $1,178 and minimum rates for business owners at $1,762.

Fremantle introduced higher nightclub rates in 2011 to cover rising costs attributed to cleaning up after late-night revelers, extended early morning guard patrols and CCTV surveillance.

The ‘nightclub tax’ was unsurprisingly opposed by the three nightclubs operating at the time, claiming their patrons weren’t the only ones who had to be monitored on CCTV or left a mess in the streets and that their businesses brought people and money to Fremantle.

“Fremantle’s central business district benefits enormously from the fact that a place like Metropolis Fremantle exists,” club owner David Wallace said at the time.

His counterpart from The Clink – who became Hugos – suggested clubbers would eventually carry higher prices.

The council’s newly appointed CEO, Glen Dougall, was the council’s spokesperson on the issue in 2011 in his role as director of corporate services.

“The city and many in the community feel that nightclubs and their patrons are contributing to the need for additional cleaning and security services,” he said at the time.

About James K. Bonnette

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