Sex venue protest as council control code ‘goes too far’

SEXUAL entertainment venues in Sheffield are to face stricter controls at the hands of the council – and some operators believe it is going too far.

A licensing system is being introduced to ensure premises such as lap and pole dance and strip clubs are not opened near schools, parks, churches, hospitals, tourist attractions or landmarks such as the Peace Gardens and Tudor Square.

Although there will be no numerical limit, locations will not be allowed on ‘a central gateway’ to the city and near areas where there are high levels of crime.

The cost of a new annual licence is £1,335 and renewal is £1,000, with Sheffield taking advantage of the Government giving councils greater regulatory powers to protect the character of neighbourhoods, control advertising, ensure businesses are managed properly and to safeguard performers.

But some venues believe stricter regulation is not necessary.

“We regret that some outdated perceptions of the industry appear to have influenced some aspects of the policy,” say representatives of Scores striptease and sports bar in Charter Square.

“We feel that the modern industry in which we operate self-regulates to a high degree.

“From our experience, the majority of operators are conscious of public concerns and consider the welfare of performers to be of prime importance.”

Scores says there could be uncertainty over locations if places near the ‘cultural hub of the city’ or ‘a central gateway to the city” are ruled out.

The Sheffield premises are near Barkers Pool and the Peace Gardens. “If Charter Row were deemed to be a ‘gateway to the city’, we would strongly oppose the introduction of this part of the clause.”

Councillors, who will today (Thursday) discuss the response to a consultation programme, are being encouraged to visit Scores in Sheffield before making a final decision, as did their counterparts in Leeds.

Lawyers for Spearmint Rhino, which has a lap dancing club in Brown Street in the city centre, criticise proposed restrictions on advertising, which would appear to be “a severe restraint on trade”.

Meanwhile, Marie Calvert, who runs La Chambre, “the top-class venue for liberated adults”, with husband Barry in Attercliffe Road, describes the proposed changes as “a worrying development”.

She adds: “We cannot be compared to lap dancing clubs or indeed any other kind of sexual venue in that we do not offer entertainment to our customers. They themselves consent to any fun they wish to have.

“We have been open for almost 13 years and have had no problems at all. In fact our customers arrive and leave as quietly as they can. We also fill the local hotels at weekends.

“To be told we will have yet another expense is disheartening. I am under no illusions that this is yet another stealth tax from the Government but I suppose we will have no choice but to comply.”