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Business rates drive retailer out of Brighton city centre
He dreamt of running a shop in Brighton, but a businessman who lost his life savings will be returning to America after closing his store.
Patrick O’Brien said his dream to move across the pond from his Los Angeles home was scuppered by Brighton and Hove’s extortionate business rates.
For years he worked in an office job, saving money for the move to Brighton – which he said he believed to be a vibrant and cosmopolitan city, close to London, with a thriving nightlife.
But running Simply The Best in The Lanes has lost him £80,000 in life savings and he is returning to America disheartened.
He said: “Running a business has been horrendous and it’s heartbreaking to close it down.
“Council rates are disgusting on businesses. My rent is £2,000 and council tax is almost half of that, £900.
“So much money has been lost it’s unbelievable.
“It’s a risk going into business, I accept that, but there’s no support for businesses which is absolutely terrible.
“We’re sole traders – that’s supposed to be what Brighton’s all about.”
He said he felt business rates, which are assessed every five years and set by central Government but collected by local authorities, should be reviewed more often.
He added: “The council just say you get the highs and the lows, but they are driving people out of business.
“They are squeezing everybody, it’s tough times.”
The shop will close next Saturday and Mr O’Brien is moving back to Los Angeles in February.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said the council’s business rates team tries to support firms as much as possible, puts on schemes to support local traders and VisitBrighton secured retail features in national papers in the run up to Christmas.
He said: “We’re sorry to hear that Peter’s business hasn’t been successful in Brighton.
“The council recognises the importance of the retail sector in the city and particularly the value of having a range of independent shops that are a great attraction for tourists and so bring business into the city.
“I met with local government minister Brandon Lewis this week and raised this issue and the government view is that Brighton and Hove business rates could come out the same or worse in any revaluation.”