Two city centre lap-dancing clubs have had their annual sex entertainment licences renewed despite dozens of objections.
Councillors approved the applications for sister venues Urban Tiger and Central Chambers after hearing there was a “presumption” of granting them because there were no statutory grounds for refusal.
The licences permit topless and fully nude performances.
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Opponents claim the establishments objectify women and are unsuitable in a family friendly location and near a church.
There was no objection from the police or Bristol City Council’s regulatory services after officers found no breaches of rules during visits and reviewing CCTV footage.
Licensing sub-committee members were told the local authority’s sexual entertainment venues policy allowed a maximum of two strip clubs in the city centre, which are currently Urban Tiger in Broad Quay and Central Chambers, St Stephens Street.
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The panel renewed their licences at City Hall on Monday, February 3, and Thursday, February 7, respectively.
Speaking at Central Chambers’ hearing, the clubs’ barrister Philip Kolvin QC said: “This is a pretty splendid example of how sexual entertainment regulation can work.
“You’ve got a council that says ‘we’re not going to allow a big venue, we’re going to have two well-regulated venues, we’re not going to have naughty logos on the outside, we’re not going to have people leafleting, it’s going to be absolutely discreet and inside it will be regulated to a tee’.”
He said the Hale family, who own the venues, were of “impeccable character” and took performers’ welfare seriously, such as ensuring security and welfare and installing showers and changing rooms.
Mr Kolvin said premises were “discreet” and people passed by without noticing they were lap-dancing clubs.
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“If the two venues were ghastly and had a very nasty impact on the area then you might say they’re not suitable here, but that is not the case,” he said.
“If you really look hard, you can see it’s there but it is not impacted on you as you walk by.”
He said some people strongly opposed sex entertainment venues but added: “Parliament has said this is lawful and you must grant unless there is a statutory ground to refuse.”
The panel agreed that the premises were discreet and that Central Chambers had coexisted with nearby St Stephens church for 17 years, despite objections about their proximity.
They were told naked life-drawing classes on Saturdays did not require a licence and were so popular that the club was considering opening on Monday nights for them.
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Mr Kolvin said a raised piece of flooring councillors spotted near a fire exit on their site visit would be repaired.
Asked about information displayed on the employee noticeboard, he said: “The licensing conditions say we’ve got to have literature, contact names and telephone numbers for organisations that provide advice and counselling on matters related to sexual problems, family planning, sexually transmitted diseases and rape and sexual assault.”
He said the board included house rules and dancer welfare information including details of groups that offer advice and support on child sexual abuse, chlamydia, modern slavery, domestic abuse and an “advert for Subway because they have a discount, although I’m not sure it belongs there”.
Replying to a query about disabled access, Mr Kolvin said it was “quite perilous to get down to the loo” and that there were also stairs to the performance area but that installing a ramp was impractical because of listed building status and that to comply with gradient requirements it would end up “in the middle of the road”.
“What tends to happen is someone who has an access challenge contacts the club saying they are coming to Bristol and are told there are some real challenges at Central Chambers but that Urban Tiger 200 to 300 yards away has level access, so in nearly every case they are directed there and have a jolly nice evening,” he added.
Granting the licence, sub-committee chairwoman Cllr Brenda Massey said: “We considered very carefully all the submissions and the written submissions from the objectors.
“We find there is no sufficient reason not to grant, therefore the application for renewal has been granted.”