Strip Clubs are part of the organised sex trade and as with the rest of this industry, the women working in it are typically treated very poorly - exploited both in terms of uncertain pay, no employment rights and high levels of sexual abuse. Clubs also create 'no go' zones in their vicinty - where women feel, and frequently are, intimidated and harassed. And the industry promotes unacceptable 'President Club' style attitudes in wider sociey. After all, how can it ever be 'Times Up' when men can buy women?
In otherwords, the industry provides a harmful and frequently dangerous environment for young women to work in and promotes deeply damagaing attitudes towards all women.
Find out more about strip clubs & read testimonies from performers on our publication page
Betwen 2005 and 2010, strip clubs were simply licensed as leisure venues like a cafe or a karoake bar and the industry mushroomed uncontrollably. A high profile campaign by pressure group Object and The Fawcett Society led to a change in the law (despite industry reps swearing in the press, and even to Parliament, that lap dancing 'wasn't sexual'; that regulation was a breach of club owners' human rights and its advocates framing this as a 'moral crusade').
But from 2011 new legislation was introduced which meant that Councils could license clubs as 'Sexual Entertainment Venues' (or SEVs). Most adopted this licensing. This finally gave Councils the power to consider local opinion, the suitability of the local enviornment and equality issues. It gave them sweeping powers to refuse to license new clubs or to relicense existing clubs and meant they could even set a policy that no clubs should be licensed (a 'nil policy').
However, through a process of apathy, ignorance, bias and fear of the hugely powerful strip industry, many Councils are not properly enforcing their licensing rights - or responsibliites. They are still not listening to local people, still not doing what is best for the local communituy, still not considering the impact of the industry on women's safety, let alone equality, and continue to license and re-license strip clubs, even in blatantly inappropriate locations (like residential areas, near schools or even women's shelters).
A ground breaking precedent has now been set with not one but two successfull legal challenges against Sheffield City Council. This highlights how all Councils are likely to be breaching equality law when licensing the strip industry.
Legally councils have a duty to act to elminate harassment, discrimination and victimisation and to promote good relations between the sexes in all of its policies and licensing decisions. Yet this is the very definition of lap dancing and the culture it creates. Academic studies, countless testimonies from lap dancers and undercover journalists reveal the harassement and worse is rife within clubs with press reports revealing extreme abuse from prostitution and assaults to class A drugs and drink spiking as the norm.
In fact as the lawyer acting in these two cases remarked:
And it is not just about the young women in the industry. Women also feel - and often are - unsafe, harassed and victimised in their vicinty.
And it is about the attitudes strip clubs perpetuate in wider society. International treaties alongside countless studies have recognised for years that objectification and the porn/sex trade contribute to harmful attitudes in wider society. After all, isn't a nonsense to be *shocked* by The President's Club in a society that legitimises and glorifies strip clubs, where much worse happens?
The legal challenges to Sheffield City Council was taken by a local gran, Irene. The first was against Sheffield's re-licensing of its one club, Spearmint Rhino. Days before going to court the Council conceded it had breached equality law and had wrongfully ignored objections as 'moral'. The second was against the Council's entire licensing policy where it introduced 'no limits' on the number of clubs that may operate. A coalition of rights groups, ex-lap dancers, MPs and some of the Council's own Councillors crowd funded to support Irene - a campaign that received months of media coverage. A day of high drama unrolled in Court during which the Council conceded it had yet again breached equality law on exactly the same grounds. It now has to re-consult and re-draw its licensing policy. We estimate this has been at a cost to the tax payer of well over £150,000.
Just some of the groups and people supporting the campaign
we are working on a UK map of local council policies and their clubs. Contact us if you'd like to help research this!
please feel free to send us news of strip clubs and their relicensing in your area.
Two clubs allowed to continue operating despite mass objection over years, including by MPs and police. Entire licensing policy currently being reviewed. Cheltenham
One licensed club shut due to delapidation. But town is a hot spot for 'pop up strip clubs'. These are perfectly legal, cannot be licensed and cannot be regulated.
More Info: The Times The Mail
Local Campaign: Cheltenham Fems
Decided that 4 was apparently an appropriate number of clubs and happily axed the 7 it originally had - despite being taken to court, unsuccessfullly by these clubs' operators. We suggest 4 is a very large number of venues. Leeds is also the only place in the UK that has introduced a 'red light tolerance zone' with disastrous consequences for local people and those in prostitution, including a murder of a woman in prostitution and two other suspected-related related murders.
Lap dancing deemed totally inappropriate and closed months after opening when a decision on its licensing could only be made retrospectively: Liverpool Echo
New application refused, town currently has 2.
Sheffield continues to license its one strip club, Spearmint Rhino, with private booths in a residential area next door to student accommodation despite having conceded 2 court cases that it has breached equality law and wrongfully dismissed objections over its licensing of strip clubs. Because of this it now has to review its entire licensing policy (currenlty set for 'no limit' on the number of clubs)... watch this space!
Is about to adopt exactly the same legislation as we already have in England and Wales, with all the same flaws.
London is of course the hub of the sex trade, including strip clubs:
Has 7 clubs despite a 'zero policy' because all pre-existing clubs were allowed to continue operating when strip club licensing policy was first introduced. (We believe this is a breach of both equality and licensing law). No Clubs are allowed private booths/areas. In 2018, Camden successfully challenged one club in the High Court to stop its private booths (we provided evidence to the Council and, together with pressure group Object, ran a protest and petition signed by over 1,000 peope). Of course, if the Council had abided by its own policy, this club woudn't exist and it wouldn't have had to spend £10,000s of tax payers money in the Courts challening it!
Tower Hamlets and Hackney
Like Camden these introduced a 'zero' policy but allowed all pre-exising clubs to continue operating, even though they were desperate to get rid of the industy at the time 'strip club' licensing was introduced! If the Councils are fearful of legal action by clubs if licenses are refused they shouldn't be. There has never been a successful case taken against a Council by a strip club operator!
Has a staggering 25 sex establishments (eg sex shops and sex cinemas) and 12 strip clubs in just one small area of the borough! How can that possibly be in keeping with the Council's legal duty to work towards eliminating harassment, discrimination and victimisation of women?