Bean Leisure & Ruby May v Leeds City Council

The two clubs (Wildcats and Deep Blue) which appealed against Leeds City Council’s decision not to renew their licence have failed to have this decision overturned at Judicial Review.

Links to the decision can be found here: ref: [2014] EWHC 878 (Admin) Case No: CO/17374/2013 and CO/17440/2013

The decision confirms that the discretion available to local authorities to refuse renewal or initial license consent is very wide, and that restrictive policies can still be justified so long as there is a clear justification given.

According to J Stuart Smith, ‘The Council was entitled to reach the conclusions it did, which were in accordance with its published policy. Its decisions were rational and proportionate.’

This is significant in terms of Leeds pursuing a policy which referenced a seemingly inconclusive public consultation to support a reduction in city centre Sexual Entertainment Venues from 7 to 4.

Also of interest is the following: ‘If the licensing regime engages the Human Rights of operators of lap dancing clubs at all, it does so at a very low level… If the local authority exercises that power rationally and Judgment Approved by the court for handing down.
in accordance with the purposes of the statute, it would require very unusual facts for it to amount to a disproportionate restriction on Convention rights. If the local authority does not refer to an applicant’s Convention rights that may be an indication that it has given inadequate attention to them; but the question in every case is whether the applicant’s rights have been infringed, which is a question of substance and generally not simply one of procedure’

This reaffirms a view that whilst there should be equal treatment of all service providers or licensees by the local authority, restrictive policies do not interfere with the EU equalities directive or more fundamental human rights so long as the restrictions imposed serve ‘the general public interest’

Which takes us back to the crux of the matter: who defines what is in the ‘general public’ interest? Are local authorities consulting adequately to ensure different publics have their views felt? Do we trust Licensing Committees to balance the interests of the ‘general public’ with the rights of those who want to run a legitimate business?

These questions are rhetorical, but need to be asked repeatedly given it is now clear that SEV legislation gives total power to local authorities to ban lap dance clubs in their locality so long as they justify that ban with reference to the public interest.