A MAN who lost half a million pounds when he opened a bar in Milton Keynes has accused the city of chasing out independent businesses.
Vincent Leiu closed down his V Lounge in the Theatre District earlier this month after an 11 month battle to get a late night licence.
He spent £17,000 in court costs alone, appealing for the council to let him stay open after 1pm.
“All around me were bars and clubs which were part of massive national chain of companies.
“They were given licences to open until 2am, 3am or even 4.30am, yet I had to close early.
“It was not fair and it was not viable. I just couldn’t compete with them and I had no choice but to cut my losses and close,” said Mr Leiu.
He was forced to make his 27 members of V Lounge staff redundant.
“They all went – our cooks, our bar staff, our DJ and our cleaners. It is very sad,” he said. Mr Leiu owns three other bars in neighbouring towns and says these all run successfully with late-night licences.
“When I came to the Theatre District I thought it would be no problem as everywhere else was open so late.
“We wanted to be a bit different. We had Thai food, fish bowls to share, beer towers and cocktails. Our customers were lovely and we will be sorry to lose them.
“But it seems that unless it is part of a huge chain, a business cannot survive in Milton Keynes.
“All your pubs and bars seem to be part of a chain. Your shops are part of a chain. It is a chain city and there is no room for the small, independent business that tries to offer people something different,” said Mr Leiu, who also hosted the Groovy Gecko special needs nightclub.
The V Lounge forms the bottom of a block of residential flats built by private developers in the middle of the Theatre District, and residents had complained bitterly about noise.
A spokesman said: “Milton Keynes Council is not in the habit of stifling successful businesses. The decision on this licence was made the Licensing Sub Committee following detailed consideration, weighing in all of the relevant factors involved. One of these was indeed the potential impact on people living in the flats above this premises.”