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Copper Face Jacks firm takes in €3.2m in door and cloakroom revenue, court hears as it seeks to reduce commercial rates

The company operating Coppers and the Jackson Court Hotel on Dublin's Harcourt Street today won a High Court appeal over how its commercial rates bill was calculated


Copper Face Jacks. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Copper Face Jacks. Photo: Fergal Phillips

Copper Face Jacks. Photo: Fergal Phillips

The company that operated Copper Face Jacks takes in €3.2million a year in door and cloakroom receipts, the High Court has heard, as the company seeks to have its commercial rates bill reduced.

The company operating Coppers and a hotel on Dublin's Harcourt Street today won a High Court appeal over how its commercial rates bill was calculated.

The court directed the Commissioner of Valuation to reconsider how the rates were calculated.

The Commissioner says the rates should be calculated based on a €1.75m estimated net annual rental valuation (NAV) of the premises and he asked the High Court to determine legal issues arising from a decision of the Valuation Tribunal reducing the NAV to €1.155m.

The case arose after the valuation office completed a revaluation of business premises in the Dublin City Council area in 2013, applicable to rates charged from 2014.

Brenagh Catering Ltd, which operates the Jackson Court Hotel on Harcourt Street, and Copper Face Jacks nightclub, which operates from the basement of the hotel premises, had appealed to the tribunal that the €1.75m NAV was excessive.

It proposed a NAV of €840,000.

The tribunal’s 2016 decision on a €1.155m NAV arose after it provided for 11pc to be applied to the nightclub’s door and cloakroom revenue of €3.2m and an allowance of €200,000 to reflect the agreed “exceptional” expertise of the occupier.

In a judgment published today, Mr Justice Mark Heslin found the tribunal erred in law in several respects, including in not giving adequate reasons for various findings by it.

The sole issue in dispute in the appeal before the tribunal was the percentage to be applied to door and cloakroom receipts associated with the nightclub, in respect of revenue exceeding €1m, he said.

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For the purposes of the tribunal appeal, the total agreed door/cloakroom revenue was €3.2m, he said.

The tribunal was incorrect, inter alia, in focussing on the percentages to be applied to those receipts instead of considering if the €1.75m NAV was excessive, he held.

It also incorrectly applied an overall 11pc to the receipts on grounds of its finding no evidence was adduced to support the commissioner’s methodology in reaching a 40pc figure for the receipts, he said. The commissioner considered an application of 70pc to the door and was also justified, he noted.

It is “not at all clear why” the tribunal concluded 11pc was appropriate, the judge said.

While not doubting the skill, expertise or bona fides of the tribunal members, and while accepting there may well be clear and compelling reasons for the conclusion reached, he was satisfied those reasons were “not set out with sufficiency”.

The tribunal must now reconsider the matter in line with all of the judge’s findings.

The judge stressed, in its appeal to the tribunal, the onus of proof was on Brenagh to prove the €1.75m NAV was “actually incorrect” and it must do so on specified grounds.

However, certain statements in the tribunal’s decision were suggestive of a shifting of the onus of proof onto the commissioner as if he faced the burden of proving the €1.75m NAV.

Although the basis upon which the tribunal rejected evidence from the company’s valuer concerning the appropriate percentage to be applied to the receipts was unclear, “it is clear that it was rejected”, he said. The company’s valuer had argued a zero percentage should be applied to the first €600,000 of receipts, (€600,000 being the annual cost of operating the nightclub); 10pc on the next €400,000; and 5pc on the balance of €2.2m.

The tribunal’s decision on the receipts suggested Brenagh did not discharge the burden of proof of demonstrating the pre-appeal NAV was incorrect, he said.

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