A leading south side restaurateur threatened with an “insane” 550 per cent rates hike has thanked Extra readers for their “massive” support.
But as the dilemma facing his business continues unsolved Marco Giannasi, owner of landmark venue the Battlefield Rest, says he feels like someone “waiting for a sentence to be announced”.
At stake is an iconic restaurant built up over many years from scratch, and with it the fate of around 16 jobs.
As reported in last issue Mr Giannasi has been handed a rates rise estimate which would see his present £6,200 per year bill rocket to an astronomic £33,120.
He has bluntly warned he will have to close the award-winning business if he cannot achieve a fair and logical level of rates.
Attempts to gain an explanation of the thinking behind the shock bill have met with a reply which he considers does not make any sense.
Mr Giannasi said: “I have had my rates bill on hold for a month and in the mean time my increase capped to 50 per cent, however I have found out that not all restaurants have been presenting their turnover.
“When I asked the principal rates assessor how they then assessed our restaurant the answer was that it was on the basis of a ‘hypothetical turnover’ - meaning guesswork.”
He added: “I feel the law should be equal for all, and that the assessors do not have any knowledge of business accountancy - they are only surveyors.
“This word ‘hypothetical’ is assuming, with any information given, that a restaurant can take any amount - and they can guess it!
“We were honest - and we got penalised”.
His direct enquiry to the principal surveyor at the assessors’ office drew the response that “hypothetical achievable turnover” is a term used when valuing or assessing licensed premises for rating premises.
It has been roundly condemned by licensed trade associations, and led to massive estimates for many venues across Scotland this year.
This prompted a nationwide outcry which led to an emergency “transitional relief” measure being used by the Scottish Government, in what many argued was a humiliating U-Turn.
It’s been implied Mr Giannasi could be liable to receive this relief - widely described as a sticking plaster which does not address a fundamentally flawed system.
However even if this were so it does not address his basic problem, which he sees as a system in which assessors with no knowledge of business practice are able to invent sky-high increases on the basis of a hypothesis which has no actual basis in reality.
The assessors’ office explanation was that “hypothetical achievable turnover” has been determined by case law over the years.
It suggests that it “essentially means the turnover any reasonably capable operator could achieve at an outlet.
“In the majority of cases, this will be the actual turnover of the subjects”. It adds: “I hope this clarifies matters”.
Mr Giannasi is of the opinion that the only thing the “explanation” clarifies is that surveyors have no inkling of how a licensed trade venue operates, or of the relation between turnover and profit.
He is convinced that the exorbitant rise the assessor has proposed is at best an optimistic guess, and that it bears no relation to any credible indicators.
The use of the word “achieve” in relation to turnover is at odds with any serious analysis of business success, as turnover in itself does not indicate any level of profit.
A medium-range turnover of high margin goods could deliver a good profit margin, for example - a high turnover set against high running costs and low profits could deliver a loss.
When the Extra asked again if either the assessors or the council could offer further explanation of just how a proposed rates rise of 550 per cent had been calculated a spokesman said: “The Glasgow City Assessor’s Office is currently in dialogue with the Mr Giannasi and his advisers”.