BUSINESSES in Croydon's Restaurant Quarter are uniting to combat high VAT by joining a national campaign to bring restaurant prices down.
Restaurants and bars in South Croydon including Bar Txt, Bagatti's and The Half and Half Bar have joined the Thrive on Five campaign, which aims to reduce VAT to five per cent for the hospitality industry.
But the campaign has already hit a stumbling block as the Treasury minister in charge of VAT, David Gauke, has claimed there is not enough evidence that a reduction in tax would help the trade.
Linda Arthur, owner of Bar Txt in South End, said: "A dinner for two offered by Marks and Spencer or other supermarkets has no VAT charged, yet all restaurants have to charge VAT at 20 per cent. Restaurants, hotels and pubs are suffering, and this is not helped by the high VAT they have to charge their customers.
"The hospitality industry is a major employer and taxpayer, and yet the government is willingly allowing many outlets to close down in the difficult trading period we are experiencing, due to lack of customers, many of whom are unwilling to pay the higher prices, including VAT.
"Every outlet that closes means fewer jobs and less revenue for the Government, yet it continues at an alarming rate. If the Government were to reduce the VAT on food in the hospitality industry to five per cent, many jobs and businesses could be saved."
Ian Taitte, owner of the Half and Half Bar, said lowering VAT at quieter times of the year such as January would help many bars and restaurants.
He added: "The high VAT is really killing us, and it's killing the industry.
"I'm on board for any campaign that tries to lower it. Christmas and the new year were great, but all of January Croydon has been like a ghost town.
"If VAT doesn't go down it's only going to get worse.
"People are still being made redundant and just don't have any money right now.
"Of course they aren't going to go out if they can't afford it, so it affects us all."
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