The owner of a family-run shop facing financial ruin due to “crippling” business rates has issued a last-ditch appeal to customers to help him keep trading.
Andy Cope, 46, opened Demon Trading, in Whitefriargate, city centre, in June 2016, but he now owes thousands in unpaid business rates.
The store sells a wide range of Gothic clothing, and niche items such as Ouija boards and incense sticks.
Unless he can find £7,600 within the next ten days, he will be forced to close, with any remaining stock – and possibly items from his home – sold to help pay off the debt.
Mr Cope said: “We are really struggling. It’s very likely that we will have to close. We’ve just paid £5,000 but the rest is now needed.
It’s extremely disappointing. We’ve put everything we’ve got into making this business a success but last year’s business rates crippled us.”
This year, due to a new formula used by the government’s Valuation Office Agency (VOA) to determine business rates, Mr Cope is not required to pay anything. The debt relates to last year’s rates.
He said: “Last year, businesses really suffered with the public realm works. We got a 10 per cent discount. But we will have to find over £12,000.
“This year, the rates have gone even though we are no longer facing disruption caused by the public realm works and orange barriers.
“To me, it doesn’t make much sense.”
Mr Cope is urging customers, old and new, to support his family.
We can’t go advertising,” he said. “So I’m saying to people, please come and support us or we will disappear.”
Mr Cope’s business evolved from a stall in Princes Quay Shopping Centre. Prior to that he was a mechanic for 27 years, but was forced to quit due to deteriorating health.
He has fibromyalgia, a long-term, often debilitating, condition that causes pain all over the body.
Mr Cope says the financial pressures are adding to his problems.
He said: “I’ve been very down.”
Mr Cope is helped in the shop by his wife Lynette, 42, and their children Alyssa, 18, and Morgan, 16.
In a statement, Hull City Council said: “Hull City Council is obliged to collect business rates that are set by the Government, based on rateable values (RV) assessed by the Valuation Office.
“From April 1, small businesses with rateable values below £12,000 were no longer required to pay business
rates. Businesses with a rateable value between £12,000 and £15,000 were able to pay reduced amounts.”As a result, an extra 300 small businesses will now pay no business rates, amounting to £1.7m of relief, and a further 200 to 300 will benefit from tapered relief estimated to be worth around £2m.
“The council regularly works with individual businesses to find the best way to pay their rates, whether that is in smaller regular instalments, or larger, less frequent payments.
“If a business owner is having difficulties paying their business rates they should contact the council to discuss this. This ensures that further action that can lead to bailiff instruction can be avoided wherever possible.”