Leeds strip clubs refused licence renewal still standing empty one year on

An interesting little article just published reflecting on the fact that in the wake of the ‘moral crusade’ to get a number of Leeds striptease clubs shut down (before the Tour de France), the clubs concerned still stand vacant. The article poses the question as to whether a vacant premise is worse for the reputation and image of the city than a thriving strip club. A question that might be raised about any number of premises that authorities seemingly want to drive off our High Streets: betting shops, charity shops, poundshops etc….

http://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/latest-news/top-stories/time-for-some-naked-ambition-over-former-leeds-lapdancing-venues-1-7215692

On the Leeds saga, see also:

https://sevlicensing.wordpress.com/2014/03/28/leeds-clubs-lose-judicial-review/

https://sevlicensing.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/three-leeds-sexual-entertainment-venues-lose-licence/

Newcastle renewal of striptease club hits headlines

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An odd one as this venue (formerly, The Purple Door) has been licensed for sexual entertainment for a few years, but it has only been recently that the owners have proposed actually using it for lap dance. Cue 30 objections, the council’s decision to renew and an onslaught of headlines in which protestors suggest this new club, opposite the railway station in Newcastle, will set the wrong tone for visitors to the city. Harriet Harman has weighed into the debate supporting the leader of the council’s view that this venue objectifies women and should not have been licensed.

Of the 30 objections, 23 were made by current and recent students of Newcastle and Northumbria universities, with a 38-name petition also raised by them against the plans.

“A new strip club is not what Newcastle needs,” a Newcastle University medical student said. “In fact it would be very counterproductive for a city that already struggles with its reputation as a extreme party venue.

“This reputation almost put me off coming to Newcastle Medical School.”

Others had concerns that the club could lead to the city gaining a “seedy” reputation.

See:

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/newcastle-strip-club-gets-go-8992703

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/vera-baird-criticises-decision-allow-90

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/harriet-harman-backs-newcastle-council-902834503987

Benfleet new lap dance club licensed

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Not too many new licence applications or refusals to report recently but the first club in Castle Point local authority has been approved despite 35 objections. The club is on an industrial park.

Addressing a council licensing sub-committee meeting , Benfleet resident Roger Bates expressed fears more clubs could appear.

He said: “The concern I have is one of precedent…If this application is granted, it is difficult to see what reasons there could be for turning one down in the future…This is a material change in the character of Benfleet and Castle Point.”

But lawyer David Dadds, representing applicant Glenn Smith, said: “This is a lawful use and there will be people within this community that will want to make use of it…If there’s not a demand, this type of business will not exist…It is in an industrial area and as such its operation cannot be seen to be in any way inappropriate…Most customers want to come discreetly, use the facilities and go.”

Chairman Peter Burch said: “We consider the arguments made by the objectors don’t contain sufficient reasons to reject the application, but we do understand the concerns raised…We believe the police and other relevant authorities have agreed stringent conditions with the applicant to properly regulate the premises.”

See: http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/11796421.Fears_of_future_applications_as_lapdancing_club_is_granted_licence/?ref=mry

Refusal no. 42. ‘Blaze’ in Acton fails to obtain Sexual Entertainment Licence

Not widely reported it appears, but an application for a new SEV in Acton was rejected last week by Ealing Council on grounds of locality. Interesting as the area is non-residential, and the policy for sex establishments in Ealing only identifies Acton Town Centre as suitable for a club, and the residential districts as unsuitable, so not clear how this locality was regarded. It appears that being opposite a ‘family’ leisure centre was the clincher here. The venue obtained an alcohol licence, however. Screen shot 2015-02-10 at 11.03.29

Havering imposes a nil limit on Sexual Entertainment

Havering (Romford) is one of the last adopters of the SEV licensing powers, and has adopted a policy which makes an assumption against award of a licence, apart from in exceptional circumstances. They consulted on this way back in 2011, and received just two responses (suggesting few are especially worried about this issue?) From the policy:

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‘The Council has set a limit on the number of sex establishments that it thinks is appropriate for its relevant localities. The Council treats each ward in the borough as a relevant locality. Having regard to its analysis, the Council has determined that the appropriate numbers of sex establishments for each ward is as follows:

Wards:

Brooklands 0

Cranham 0

Elm Park 0

Emerson park 0

Gooshays 0

Hacton 0

Harold Wood 0

Havering Park 0

Heaton 0

Hylands 0

Mawneys 0

Petitts 0

Rainham and Wennington 0

Romford Town 0

St Andrews 0

South Hornchurch 0

Squirrels Heath 0

Upminster 0

These limits justified with reference to maps of each ward marking sensitive land uses: as always it appears local authorities have to spend a lot of time justifying their policies, which hardly seems necessary given all could simply say ‘each case to be considered on its merits’. Anyway, referring to one of these maps (inset) I can see a number of industrial locations which are well over 1km from any sensitive locations, so not sure how this fits with notion that SEVs are inappropriate in whole of this ward. Of course, the definition of localities needs to be decided in the light of the facts of the case, so the idea that you can conflate localities and wards seems legally unreasonable.

Interestingly, Sex Establishment application fees in the authority are still advertised to be £10,000 on the council webpages, which puts it at the upper end of things (contra Hemming v Westminster), but in the policy these have been lowered to £2000 for SEVs. Presumably these will be bought into line (though that’s not guaranteed).

See:

https://www.havering.gov.uk/Pages/News/A-new-licensing-system-to-ban-unlicensed-sex-establishments-in-the-Borough.aspx

Discussion of Scottish Air Weapons and Licensing Bill

Yesterday I provided evidence as part of a roundtable at the Local Government and Regeneration Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the Air Weapons and Licensing Bill 2014</a>, which contains clauses relating to Sexual Entertainment Venues. The range of experts present encompassed a wide range of views of the merits of a new, and separate, system of licensing for SEVs in Scotland which would follow E&W legislation in licensing SEVs in the same way that sex shops are licensed, with the possibility of refusal on the basis of inappropriateness of location, the uses of land in the vicinity or the state of the premise itself.

Regarding the introduction of such a licensing regime in Scotland as a foregone conclusion (noting previous cases which have shown that licensing boards in Scotland must limit their decisions regarding licensing to alcohol issues), I made a series of points which I think would result in a fairer, more robust system of regulation than the adoptive system of licensing in England and Wales:

1. I argued that the new licensing system should be mandatory, meaning all 32 licensing authorities must adopt the powers, and retrospectively adopt the 1982 powers relating to sex shops if they have not already done so. This is to avoid confusion and to encourage consistency of approach, noting there still remains a variegated landscape of regulation in England and Wales that is unhelpful to operators and confusing for the wider public. I think the requirement for local authorities to consult over adoption has been a huge waste of time and money in E&W (not least because many local authorities ignore the outcomes of consultation!)

2. I argued that the definition of sexual entertainment should be modified to read (at 45A, para 3 of the proposed amendments) ‘sexual entertainment is any live performance involving a display of nudity which can be reasonably assumed, whether by verbal, or other means, including advertising, to be provided solely or principally for the purposes of sexual stimulation’. I also argued that an additional clause needs to be added at 45A para 7 indicating ‘This shall exempt any premise resorted to by more than one woman or man for the purposes of prostitution or free fornication’ (something necessary to exclude the possibility that swingers’ clubs, gay encounter bars or massage parlours where sexual services are sold might obtain SEV licences).

3. I argued for striking all clauses in Para 5 subsection 5 making reference to the possibility of nil limits as each and every case needs to be decided on its merits. I find it absurd that local authorities are able to determine localities in advance given the definition of localities will depend according to the fact of the case at the time the determination is made. Nil limits are hence legally unreasonable and indefensible, and place a large burden of proof onto local authority licensing officers who must ‘from time to time’ review any such policy.

4. I argued against bespoke local policy with the legislation simply arguing each case needs to be considered in relation to its merits. There are only 17 or so clubs in Scotland, and if multiple Las are forced to evolve policies for sex establishments this would seem to be burdensome and unnecessary. Instead, the legislation should make clearer what the basis for a refusal of a licence might be. Based on my research on attitudes to SEVS, I suggested inserting, under 5d, the committee may have consideration of ‘the use to which any premise in the vicinity is put, paying particular attention to the proximity of residential premises, educational facilities, spaces of worship and other community facilities

5. I argued that the 1982 Schedule concerning sex shops needs to be modified so that it is clear that conditions can be imposed which relate to advertising and signage in, on and in the vicinity of, a premise.

So my hope is that if the bill is passed, it is in modified form taking on board a recognition that some of the definitions enshrined in the legislation have proved moot in England and Wales, and that the Scottish Parliament enshrine certain guidelines and intentions in the legislation rather than publishing any supplementary or secondary guidance, which is not admissible in legal appeals. This said, most of the discussion revolved around (i) how to distinguish striptease from art and (ii) whether venues offering occasional striptease should be exempt in any way, so I am not sure my messages about legal proportionality, clear definitions and the unreasonableness of nil limits will have any influence on the ultimate Act.

Interesting to see my comments were misinterpreted by some as a call for tighter regulation of lap dancing clubs rather than a fairer form of regulation: there also appears to be a widespread misunderstanding out there about the licensing of massage parlours and a denial that many of these fall into the definition of an SEV as framed in the current law.

See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-30818950
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/licensing-call-over-strip-clubs.1421242115

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(from live text coverage of debate)

LICENCE REFUSAL No. 41, LOWESTOFT

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Waveney District Council’s licensing sub committee voted unanimously against an application to open Jessy Fantail in the former Bank Stores pub, in Commercial Road, on November 21.

Applicants Hazel Wilson and Stephen Barrett were given the go-ahead to open the Candy Lounge Gentleman’s Club in nearby Station Square in February and said they would surrender that licence if they received approval to open in Bank Stores.

Speaking after the meeting, committee member Sarah Webb said councillors felt the location of the latest venue at the gateway to the town and close to residential properties was inappropriate. There were 26 objections and three petitions. The minutes for this meeting remain unavailable at time of writing, so the full justification for refusal remains unstated.