Council Voice Concerns Over Possible Growth In Lapdancing & Strip Clubs

"..central Government has tied our hands and given free rein to any business that wants to stage adult entertainment."

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The council is warning ministers that unless they amend the country's new licensing laws, town halls will be powerless to prevent new lapdancing clubs and strip joints opening up in virtually any pub, bar or club.

the sight of things to comeon our High Streets?.....

The council is now calling on ministers in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to change the law and close a loophole in the Licensing Act 2003 that could free bar and pub owners to open a flood of new strip clubs and nude entertainment establishments across the country.

The loophole could allow any holder of a new premises licence granted under the 2003 act to stage nude entertainment without requiring any further permissions. Under the previous  rules, specific permission was needed.

Under the old system, councils and local communities had far greater powers to resist such applications, but the new licensing laws have removed almost all of these powers – making it far easier for strip joints and lapdancing clubs to set up shop.

Council deputy leader Maurice Heaster said: "This is a flawed pieced of legislation that needs to be urgently fixed before it causes any more problems.

"When the licensing laws were relaxed a few years ago, we warned they would encourage binge drinking and lead to greater levels of late night noise and disturbance. Sadly ministers ignored our warnings and now communities, the police and the NHS are having to cope with the fallout.

"Now it appears that an unexpected by-product of the changes is to allow any business acquiring a new premises licence to receive an implicit permission to stage nude shows.  As long as businesses have a licence allowing dancing, they could also have pole-dancing, lapdancing and stripping without having to obtain any other approval from their local licensing authority.

"These businesses may have no intention of providing this kind of adult entertainment when they get their licence, but the permission is there and it could be implemented at any time without any further discussion.

"At the moment, we are fortunate that in a family-oriented borough like Wandsworth these kind of establishments do not exist, but as the economy worsens, and pubs, bars and clubs need to compete more fiercely for fewer customers, then this is an option some will no doubt consider pursuing.

"It cannot be right that local communities and their elected representatives have no say at all about new establishments like this opening up. We should be able to say no to a strip club if we judge that its presence would be harmful to the wider community or if its location was inappropriate.

The council is now calling on the Government to amend the Licencing Act 2003, and make a number of its clauses subject to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. This legislation gives local authorities the power to regulate sex shops, sex cinemas and sex "encounter" establishments, and would mean that any business wishing to provide lap dancing or other similar activities would once again have to ask its local town hall for specific permission to do so.

The 1982 Act would also give town halls greater powers to reject such applications.The council will be putting forward these arguments in response to a consultation currently being run by the DCMS into aspects of the 2003 Licensing Act.


August 15, 2008