Leeds City Council changed their policy for the licensing of Sexual Entertainment Venues (SEV) in 2013. A cap of four was introduced, and only three of the then existing six gentleman’s clubs/lap dancing bars had their licences renewed. As a result, there has been one licence available in Leeds which has been keenly sought. The Leeds City Council’s licensing of Sex Establishments Statement of Licensing Policy is prescriptive as to where licences of this nature can be issued and they must not be near properties with sensitive uses or in sensitive locations.
After lodging an application for Tokyo Industries at the former Townhouse premises on Crown Street in Leeds to be called the Black Orchid, I worked with Philip Kolvin QC to prepare and present a successful application before the Leeds Licensing Authority. This was a significant achievement when set against the backdrop of 78 objections and a petition of 200 plus signatories against the premises being used as a gentleman’s club/lap dancing bar. Many of the objectors attended the hearing but Philip Kolvin QC was able to persuade the Authority to grant the licence notwithstanding such a high level of opposition, including the local MP, residents from a close residential block, a 24 hour gym, commercial developers and the operators of the competitors Purple Door.
Our client, Tokyo Industries operates 32 venues in the UK employing over 2000 people, and already operates an SEV premises with the same name in the heart of the historic city centre of York. Those premises are close to residential properties and operate near to the Hilton Hotel in York.
We submitted on behalf of the Applicant that this was the ideal location for an SEV as it was in the night time economy and was going to be operated at the first and second floor with a new quality restaurant being established in the ground floor of the premises. The entrance to the gentleman’s club and lap dancing bar was to be moved down Assembly Street via a discreet entrance and there would only be one sign, which would only be visible when the premises were open, from 10pm. There was to be no sexual imagery or language on the advert and a first floor balcony smoking area which would be screened off from the public would be created. The Applicant was confident that it could operate without conflict with neighbours. Many of the objectors were from a close residential block at 2 Crown Street buildings and other objectors quoted the night time use of the gym and the close proximity to the historic listed building of the Corn Exchange.
Philip Kolvin QC highlighted to the Committee the following key points:-
- The policy states that the city centre is the only appropriate location for SEVs, the number is set at four provided the premises are not near premises with sensitive uses or in sensitive locations. This would be the fourth and final licence if granted.
- In relation to locations, the public survey for the policy highlighted 11 areas and the Council had carried out public consultation regarding those 11 areas. The results of that consultation, contained in the policy, showed that the 11th area which was not regarded as sensitive was the Call Lane/The Calls/Assembly Street area – precisely where these premises are situated.
- We pointed out that the police and the Local Authority had not objected to this application and were not opposed to it whereas there had been objections to previous applications to secure the fourth licence.
- Our argument was that in The Calls/Assembly Street, all buildings are near something that might be regarded as “sensitive”. For example, there is the Corn Exchange or the residential blocks of flats. Philip Kolvin submitted this was not a residential area as defined by the Policy and was less residential than York Place – where two of the existing licences trade. He highlighted this was not a retail shopping area, although there was shops with retail use nearby.
- Our final point was that this was a late night entertainment area in accordance with the policy and was the most acceptable in the public’s consideration as shown by responses to the consultation.
Many objectors attempted to raise concerns about the close proximity to the Corn Exchange, which is a listed building. We highlighted that it was not the age of the building which was the issue but the use. The use of the Corn Exchange was not commemorative and has day time use only, which would be unaffected by the SEV premises, which would only be able to open from 10pm. Philip Kolvin argued that it would not be inconsistent with what the policy is trying to achieve.
Having heard all of our submissions and those of the objectors, the Licensing Authority granted the licence. Having heard from all parties, the Committee believed that the application would not infringe the policy and therefore the fourth licence should be granted.
I am of course delighted that we have secured the fourth licence for one of our key operator clients. Since the policy changes in 2013 I have advised on countless buildings where I have had to tell the client not to apply because the premises infringed the policy. Lap dancing bars or gentleman’s clubs, or whatever you want to call them, get significant opposition when they first apply for a licence and I have conducted some very stressful hearings over the years. The truth is that they are lawful, licensed and controlled, and importantly I haven’t been involved in non-compliance or enforcement issues with our clients once they have secured a licence.
I would like to thank Philip Kolvin Q.C. for the time and input preparing for the hearing and his skilful presentation of the facts against the backdrop of the policy.