An interesting development in the long-running controversy over lap-dancing clubs in Leeds: planning officers at Leeds City Council are recommending that councillors approve an application from one of the city’s seven clubs to expand and regularise its operations in a building near the Grand Theatre.
But, I hear you ask, isn’t the council on a crusade to reduce the number of such clubs in Leeds?
It is. But it’s complicated.
Even if the Black Diamond’s expansion plan gets councillors’ backing at a meeting of the council’s main planning panel on Thursday, it won’t mean much.
Because the club – along with the other six – is going to have to re-apply for its SEV (sexual entertainment venue) licence come September, when the council’s strict new licencing policy comes into force.
And that trickier hurdle is going to be handled by a different part of the council, its licencing committee. Which happens to be chaired by one of the leading lights of the campaign to shut the clubs down.
In the meantime the report prepared for Thursday’s meeting makes some interesting observations about lap-dancing clubs in general, and the Black Diamond in particular:
“It is understood that music levels associated with such establishments are significantly lower than that of a typical city centre bar,” it adds.
What about the police? According to the report, they have “no detrimental comments” to make about the application to expand.
What about the effect of the club on children, a cornerstone of the council’s new child-friendly licencing policy?
“The position of the building relative to the city centre attractions for young people is such that pedestrian footfall in this part of New Briggate is low,” the report says.
“Further, as the building’s windows are blanked out; no external reference to the nature of the use within the building are allowed; and given the proposed hours of use (between 9pm and 6am) it is not considered that it would be readily evident to children and young people what the premises was used for,” it adds.
What about the club’s effect on the bit of New Briggate where it’s located? The council officers’ report has nothing negative to say about that either.
“As the retail function of the frontage has already been lost it is not considered that the use would be harmful to the retail viability of the area whilst the use would help to support the night-time economy.”
So, the club isn’t a public nuisance, the police have no objections, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with regard to children, and the local night-time economy benefits.
That covers all the bases, doesn’t it?
Hang on. What about the moral issues? If the planners aren’t in charge of public morality in Leeds, then who is?