A lapdancing club has had its annual licence renewed – the first since Bristol City Council voted against a proposed ban on sex entertainment venues (SEVs). Urban Tiger’s application received no objections from campaigners for the first time ever following the licensing committee’s landmark decision in July.
The club, in Broad Quay, is one of a maximum of two SEVs allowed in the city centre under the authority’s existing policy. The other is its sister venue Central Chambers – both are owned by the Hale family – whose annual licence will be decided on Thursday, December 8.
City council licensing sub-committee members were told at Urban Tiger’s hearing on Wednesday, November 30, that the club was run impeccably, the performers were safe and protected and that all arguments against its existence had been proven groundless. The club’s barrister Philip Kolvin KC said that since Bristol City Council took over regulating SEVs following a change in the licensing laws in 2010, the authority had rigorously applied its rules and policies.
“The effect has been to cull venues from Bristol which were just not committed to the high standards the city expected,” Mr Kolvin said. He said this was the 10th time Urban Tiger’s SEV renewal had come before the sub-committee, and the seventh since it was taken over by the Hales, and that members had granted it on each previous occasion despite strong opposition from women’s rights groups.
Mr Kolvin said: “There are two distinguishing features this year – firstly, there are no objections from anyone at all – no public authority, no business, no individual, no agency concerned with safeguarding, nobody. Secondly this hearing comes hot on the heels of probably the widest SEV consultation ever conducted in the UK.”
He said the Hales sought not only to comply with regulation but “positively embraced” it because they wanted to maintain the highest standards and protect those who worked and visited their two establishments. Mr Kolvin said one change to the premises this year was to remove its moniker “Gentlemens Club”.
He said: “There are more women, couples and gay people coming in, so they did not want that gender exclusivity because it may be taken by women and non-binary customers that they are not welcome here, whereas they are very much welcome here. And a number of women take the view that it’s one of the safest venues in Bristol to visit because it’s one place you’re not going to be hit on.”
He said concerns that Urban Tiger caused antisocial behaviour or crime and disorder in the area had also been dispelled and that it actually made the city centre safer with its security staff, CCTV and radio links to the late-night economy. Mr Kolvin said old accusations that the performers were being harmed or exploited were refuted by the lapdancers themselves who attended previous hearings to say they were safe, looked after and well paid, with some saying the work had helped to fund their law degree or set up a business.
“In the last two to three years it came down to a more ideological position – that the council was normalising women taking their clothes off, but Parliament has legislated on striptease and said it’s a lawful activity, and one aspect of feminism is women should have the right to choose what they do with their own bodies,” he said. “So it seems these arguments have run their course and dried up.
“The council has spoken and has made provision for two premises in Bristol city centre, and this year nobody has considered lodging an objection to this properly run Bristol business with its Bristolian female directors.” The authority’s neighbourhood enforcement team had found no breaches of the venue’s licensing conditions and there were no comments from the chief constable, members heard.
The licence permits “full nude lapdancing, full nude striptease on stage and full nude pole dancing”. It was renewed until September 16, 2023, which is 12 months after the existing one expired, although the law allows SEVs to continue operating if a renewal hearing has not yet been arranged.
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