Christchurch takeaways face fee increase

By Cullen Smith of The Star

Proposed new city council licensing charges range from 37 per cent to 63 per cent. Photo / Geoff Sloan
Proposed new city council licensing charges range from 37 per cent to 63 per cent. Photo / Geoff Sloan

Cantabrians are about to face another cost increase - eating out.

Restaurants, cafes and takeaway bars may be be hit with proposed new city council licensing charges ranging from 37 per cent to 63 per cent.

Business owners contacted by The Star yesterday said they would have to increase prices to cover extra costs.

Takeaway outlets face a supersized 63 per cent increase in annual charges - from $355 to $578 - in changes proposed in the council's 2012-13 draft annual plan.

The city council blames the earthquakes for losing a quarter of the city business premises that require health licenses and plans to impose the fee hikes in a bid to ensure costs are "fully recovered".

The new fees come on top of a likely 7.6 per cent increase in residential rates, and soaring rents and house prices.

New health licence fees would apply from July if adopted, covering supermarkets, restaurants and cafes, function centres dairies butchers, bakeries delicatessens, food manufacturers, takeaway premises, caterers, mobile food hairdressers, funeral directors and camping grounds.

Riccarton Potato King takeaway bar operator Mike Yoon said he would lift prices across the menu board.

"Prices will have to go up," he said.

Mr Yoon was unsure how much extra he would have to charge and conceded he may lose a few customers in the process.

One irate small business operator who asked not to be named said customers would have to pay more to cover the "exorbitant" fees increase.

"It's ridiculous. The council is saying that because they've lost businesses paying health licences because of the earthquakes, they're having to recover costs from those that are still trading."

The catering business owner said council inspectors visited their premises "for 20 minutes or half an hour twice a year - and I think the fees they charge now for what they do are exorbitant".

"They're not going to put dog fees up 55 per cent because there'd be thousands of people complaining, so they pick on food businesses."

In a letter to business owners, council inspections and enforcement unit manager Gary Lennan said licensing fees had to increase "due to rising costs following the earthquakes".

"Around 25 per cent of Christchurch business premises requiring health licences have closed following the earthquakes, making it difficult for the health licensing team to fully recover costs," he said.

Mr Lennan said Christchurch health licensing fees were low compared with those charged by other councils and if the increases were accepted they would be "proportionate to the fees charged by other large councils".

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- CHRISTCHURCH STAR