Dates have been set for the decisive battles in the war over the future of the Leeds lap dancing industry. Seven clubs are going before Leeds City Council’s Licensing Committee in the second week of June.
All of the city centre’s functioning lap dancing clubs are having to reapply for their licences after they were reclassified as “sexual entertainment venues”.
But the city’s eight MPs, a number of councillors and religious leaders have mounted a campaign calling on Leeds City Council to reduce the number of clubs by half or ban them completely.
The Liberté “Gentlemen’s Club” in York Place kicks off proceedings on Monday 11th June when it goes before a panel of five councillors on the licensing committee. The other six applications will be heard on following days that week.
How many clubs and where?
The campaigners want the clubs banned from operating in shopping streets, main thoroughfares or near civic buildings or places of worship. The seven clubs currently operate from premises on the Headrow (two), York Place (two), Sovereign Place, Wellington St, and New Briggate.
They also want an end to clubs using cars to tout for business and using women as “promotional tools”.
The Council’s “Statement of Licensing Policy for Sex Establishments” doesn’t set a limit or “desired location” for sex establishments but leaves each application to be considered on its own merits.
Dancers and Performers Welfare Policy
What the policy does stipulate, however, is a series of “standard conditions” governing such issues as: the external appearance and layout of the premises; advertising; management; safety and security; staff welfare, including fining and pricing policies; codes of conduct for customers and entertainers; and the use of vessels (no? me neither), stalls and vehicles.
So, each application is a pretty weighty tome, given that they’ve all got to demonstrate they’ve got all the right in-house polices in place to meet those conditions.
For Liberté, for example, there’s a lengthy “Dancers and Performers Welfare Policy” (which forbids inter alia “lewd and lascivious behaviour”), a brief “Code of Conduct for Customers”, House Rules, VIP Rules, a Flyering Policy, information about trades unions, a Drugs Awareness Training Guide etc etc
Academic warns of “driving industry underground”
Amongst the evidence that’s being put forward by Liberté – and since it’s the first it’ll be interesting to see how it’s received – are a series of photos of the Ann Summers shop front in Leeds City Centre.
One can only presume that they’re going to argue a “one rule for all” point about the selling of sex to passers-by on the street.
One letter of support for the Liberté application comes from a senior Leeds University academic, who argues that an outright ban on the clubs would have a negative impact on some 750 people (500 of them women) at a time of recession.
Reader in Sociology Dr Teela Sanders says that her research into lap-dancing – the largest study carried out in the UK – indicates a ban would “drive the industry underground into unregulated venues which poses safety issues for dancers and public order issues”.
Dr Sanders argues that a ban would also “silence the voices and opinions of the vast majority of female dancers (young women under 30) who make choices to engage in the industry as a flexible, relatively high earning form of work in very difficult economic times”.