Janice Pilkington, owner of The Beauty Works in Corstorphine, said having to pay another charge on top of full business rates made her worried she would join a growing number of local firms that have disappeared from the area’s struggling high street in recent months.
She was left fuming after an enforcement officer arrived out of the blue and demanded to know whether she was offering massage.
After admitting therapeutic services were occasionally provided, Ms Pilkington was told she would need an entertainment licence. The 47-year-old said: “I’m just really angry. I think they’re just using it as an extra way of pulling in money from small businesses like mine.”
Ms Pilkington, whose parlour has been open for seven years, said she was stunned when she received the application forms last week and found the only businesses listed similar to hers was “massage parlour/sauna” – meaning her salon was grouped with racier establishments.
“It’s just ridiculous,” she said. “We do sports massage, health and holistic massage. As a health and beauty parlour, of course we have to offer massage. But it’s treatment, it certainly isn’t entertainment.”
She revealed the application fee would leave her £1000 out of pocket once VAT is included – eating into the modest £6000 she estimates is made through massage each year.
“They’re saying there’s a law that’s been there for years and it’s just now that they’re starting to enforce it, but they’ve never asked for it before.We’re trying to survive as a small business and they’re supposed to be helping us – they’re doing the complete opposite.”
Ken Swinney, secretary of Corstorphine Community Council, said he was concerned by Ms Pilkington’s predicament at a time when local businesses were struggling.
He said: “I have great sympathy for the business owner – this is just the council using regulations that were already there but which they weren’t using before to get money.
“There’s not really any business in Corstorphine high street at the moment. There’s not the moving public to support it.”
Businesses in the West End have struggled during the downturn, with the tram works to blame for some closures.
Council chiefs declined to comment on accusations they were using regulations as a revenue booster, but said Ms Pilkington’s complaint was being investigated.
A council spokeswoman said: “The council is aware of this concern and has agreed to consider these cases. No further action will be taken until this is done.”