Gay bars breathed a sigh of relief as Chancellor Gordon Brown announced his budget for 2006 today. Spirits and Champagne will not be subject to a tax increase, though beer and wine drinkers will have to drown their sorrows as the beverages are hit with a 1p and 4p tax hike respectively.

James Norton, Duty Manager at the gay bar 79CXR said “I’m delighted they’re not taxing champagne because we sell quite a lot of that, and spirits too. That’s great as far as we’re concerned!”

The bar, which counts beer as its top selling beverage lamented the extra penny on the price, “we sell a lot of the stuff,” said James. “It’s our main seller, really. Anything that’s going to cost us more makes me sad. Luckily the 4 pence on wine won’t be too big a problem as our customers don’t seem to want to drink it all that often.”

Before turning back to the busy bar he shrugged, “On a personal night out level it won’t bother me all that much, really. I may be a barman, but I don’t actually drink.”

“The champagne is a good thing, I reckon,” said the Duty Manager of Barcode in Soho, Gianlucca Critelli. “We don’t sell that much champagne, so maybe this will encourage people. The Chancellor says that if we win the world cup people will be drinking it to celebrate. Maybe, maybe. But I don’t think we’ll stock up in case!”

The 1 pence beer tax dampens his mood only slightly. “We’re a casual bar where you come for a beer, so it’s a bit of a pain. But I don’t think it’s going to affect our customers big time. Budget or no budget there will still be Happy Hour”.