Refusal no. 45 – Eden Lounge in Exeter loses licence for lap dance

Eden Lounge (formally EX4/NV), opened in 2009, has just lost its SEV licence. It won the licence in 2012, had seen it renewed but was refused it at a licensing committee meeting on 21st July. This means Exeter now has no lap dancing or SEV club.

The reasons for this decision are currently not clear – I’ll update in due course. There were 16 written objections on a number of bases, not an especially large number. The following gives a flavour:

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Refusal no. 44: Chester Platinum Lounge loses Sexual Entertainment licence

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This is a long running saga which I’ve reported on several times over the last few years.

Platinum Lounge, in Chester, was refused a licence in 2013 (refusal number 33) , appealed successfully on the basis that the committee was not quorate, was then granted its licence at renewal in 2014 but has now had its licence refused at a follow up (annual) renewal. There were a large number of objections (c. 124) and representations from local residents groups, who were represented by Philip Kolvin QC at the committee hearing.

It’s the lengthiest decision letter I’ve ever seen but here are the highlights:

The Licensing Committee decided to REFUSE the application to renew the sex establishment licence on the following statutory ground(s):

Locality in which premises is situated

Members considered the location and relevant locality in which the premises are situated. Members were aware that there is no definition of locality and took note of Home Office Guidance which states that “relevant locality does not have to be a clearly defined area and local authorities are free to conclude that it simply refers to the area which surrounds the premises.” Members decided that the locality takes in residential housing directly behind with a growing residential community, the Fortis development university accommodation and the Westby Homes development, a place of worship in line of sight, an educational centre and family dining establishments.

In addition the front of the premises, situated on the unique recognisable Rows Galleries, faces the commercial part of Chester City’s iconic landscape and members considered that too as part of the locality.

The Character of the locality:

The Council’s own policy encourages members to consider the mix of commercial and residential premises, the proximity of residential premises and to also take account of other types of premise such as schools, playgrounds, places of worship and traffic and pedestrian routes to those places….Members acknowledged that the character of the locality around the Premises was a mixture of commercial and residential. To the front of the Premises are the famous “Chester Rows”, described as the “jewel in Chester’s crown” which attracts retail outlets, food and hospitality outlets, and a mix of shoppers, workers, visitors and tourists both day and night. A residential block, The Old Three Arches, exists alongside the premises on the Rows but generally at the front of the Premises; members decided that the character is predominantly commercial. To the rear of the premises the character is more mixed with an increasing amount of residential units. Members noted the significant increase in residential occupation to the rear of the Premises and developments which are underway. Members noted that this was welcomed by some stakeholders in the City such as the Chester Renaissance board who looked for that richness of diversity. Members were satisfied that the premises are in proximity to residential areas. Members were also satisfied that it was proximate to a place of worship and to the Dewa Roman experience, an educational experience for children. Members are entitled to take into account the use to which any premises in the vicinity are put when reaching a decision to refuse to renew.

Members also concluded that there are sensitive receptors in the locality of the Premises relying on paragraph 17.7 of the policy:“Applications will not normally be granted where the premises are located:

  • Near residential accommodation
  • Near places of worship, community facilities or public buildings
  • Near schools, youth clubs or other places regularly used by children
  • On or within sight of pedestrian routes or transport nodes (such as stations or bus stops) primarily serving places in categories (a), (b), or (c).”

Members heard from a number of objectors regarding proximity to the sensitive receptors…The point is made strongly by Westby Homes in their submission. Objections raised by Councillor Dixon and objectors expressed concern that there are residential properties and university accommodation in the area and that the premises is very close to the Dewa Roman Experience which is used by school children participating in educational visits exploring Chester’s Roman streets and archaeological remains. The Committee noted that the Dewa Experience itself had not made any objection to the application. However, the members felt that the Premises is close to other family friendly premises, including bars and restaurants and that the presence of the SEV does nothing to enhance Chester’s family friendly tourist offering.

Appropriateness of an SEV in that locality:

Members referred to case law where Mr Justice Stuart-Smith had made it clear in his judgment that the Licensing Committee was entitled to reach a different decision that the one made the previous year. The provision for annual renewal for licences means that the Committee is entitled to “have a fresh look”…Further, members considered that there had been a shift in emphasis in the nature of the objections which focussed on the historic nature of the locality and it was noticeable that, in contrast to previous applications, there had been a significant increase in the volume of responses to the public notice of the application where the historic core of the City was a central theme. Members relied on submissions including those from the Civic Trust: “What is that locality? It’s The Cross, it’s Bridge Street and the area to the west of Bridge Street. This is the historic core of this world renowned heritage, retail and tourist city” and “this locality has a valuable and sensitive environment that must be conserved and developed with sympathetic uses”

Members determined that it was not appropriate to site an SEV in that locality, relying on the evidence submitted by a body of responsible local opinion who consider that the location on Chester’s historic rows is not an appropriate place for an SEV.

Members found the evidence to be highly persuasive: submissions from Chester Renaissance board, who are the guardians of Chester’s One City Plan and who are comprised of the relevant experts, public and private sector and investors in this city; Chester Cathedral, and Chester Civic Trust who are trying to make sure that the city develops in a way which respects its history and makes a pleasant place for people to live; the local councillor who is effectively devoting her time to the wellbeing of this locality. Members were persuaded by the Civic Trust that “since the opening of the Platinum Lounge in 2005, the context has changed and the premises are now even more inappropriate. They are in the wrong location than they were when the establishment was set up. There is now a set of vigorous policies, which Chester Civic Trust supports, to conserve and regenerate this locality. ..Members were persuaded by the vision for Chester which was evidenced by a number of the Objectors, in particular the spokesmen from the Chester Renaissance Board and the Civic Trust. Both these speakers shared a view of Chester City Centre in which the historic uniqueness of the City was a magnet for investors and tourists alike. The realisation of the vision required the attracting of high class retailers and an establishment which was required to have what was described as “dead” frontage (i.e. blackened shutters) during the daytime, did not fit in with this vision. Members were entitled to and did take account of the overwhelming comment from the objectors which amounted to a view that this is not an appropriate location for an SEV. A great many people, whether objecting individually or through a civic, amenity, business cultural or church organisations have registered a view that this activity should now cease in this location.

Conclusion

The Licensing Committee voted in favour of refusing the application to renew the licence as there was sufficiently compelling evidence that it would be inappropriate to grant the renewal having regard to the character of the locality and the use to which premises in the vicinity are put….Members took the view that it is the use of the premises as an SEV which makes the location no longer appropriate in the rows. They are not against SEV’s generally but no longer consider it appropriate for an SEV to be situated in that locality.

Thanks to Vanessa Bond for copy of the decision letter plus scan from local paper.

The club has now reported that it will operate as a burlesque bar from now on.

See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-33445168

Paper available for free download: ‘Law, sex and the city: regulating sexual entertainment venues in England & Wales’

This paper summarises the licensing of SEVs and lap dance clubs in England and Wales. It’s available on open access so can be downloaded and circulated freely, so feel free to send the pdf to any licensing committee members, club owners, managers, dancers, resident’s groups etc as it provides an overview of the first few years of the new licensing regime that has shaped SEVs and resulted in at least 43 licence refusals, closures and a number of operators giving up in the face of more restrictive policies.

http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/IJLBE-01-2014-0001

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