New sex establishment licensing rules passed

ELL visits a Hackney strip club in order to examine the effects of the new 'nil' licensing policy.

Many people in the borough opposed the changes. Photo: Michael Northcott

The amended ‘nil’ licensing policy on sex businesses was passed at this week’s council meeting by an overwhelming majority. The  bill prevents any new sex entertainment venues or sex shops opening in the borough and also sets new rules that existing establishments must follow.

A spokesperson from the council said: “When applying to renew their licences, [existing] establishments will be given the opportunity to demonstrate that they are run in line with their conditions, and that they do not generate significant levels of concern among the community or statutory partners.”

Last year, over 66 percent of the Hackney residents who took part in the council’s consultation on the changes were against the ‘nil’ licensing policy.

Object, a campaign group dedicated to challenging the sexual objectification of women, supports the new policy as it will restrict the further growth or expansion of similar businesses.

The council defended their decision by stating that their consultations process is designed to inform rather than determine the decision making.

Pauline Bristow, 64, licensee of The White Horse on Shoreditch High Street, which runs a strip club said: “The council think as more and more professional people come to the area we will no longer play a part of the community and there is no place for us here.

“This policy will force more people to work outside of the law. The amount of illegal venues and private parties are sure to grow and, without council regulation, the safety of the girls will be compromised.”

One dancer who preferred not to be named said: “The White Horse was the best club I’ve ever worked in. The smaller clubs in Hackney treat us girls much better than some of the larger gentlemen’s clubs.”

The women we spoke to say they enjoy their work and consider Hackney Council’s proposed changes to the licensing laws to be “ridiculous and unjust”.

Ms Bristow’s licence is up for reconsideration on March 31.  By this date, her premises must abide by the new rules.

Philip Saunders and Tom Middleton

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