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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 19:53 GMT
Strip club wins licensing appeal
Sophisticats
The club's entertainment includes striptease and pole dancing
A London strip club has won the right to serve drinks until 5am - in the West End's first test of new licensing laws.

Sophisticats, just off Oxford Street, won an appeal against Westminster City Council's refusal to allow it to extend its drinks licence by two hours.

The council says it makes a mockery of the government's claims that the new laws would empower local people.

But Sophisticats owner John McKeown said it was about time licensing laws were overhauled in England.

Sophisticats, a club which offers its customers striptease and pole dancing - or a hostess at the table for 250 an hour - wanted to extend its licence by two hours.

We would like to see our customers consume their drinks in comfort ... rather than having their drinks snatched off them at 3am
John McKeown
Sophisticats

Under the new Licensing Act, responsibility for granting the extension fell to the council, which had refused. Sophisticats appealed.

Speaking before the ruling Mr McKeown said: "We would like to see our customers consume their drinks in comfort through to the terminal hour, rather than having their drinks snatched off them at 3am."

Both the club and the council employed investigators to monitor the club late at night and report back to the appeal hearing.

The club reported back that complaints about noise and people urinating in the street were exaggerated, the council said the club's customers were among "the best dressed urinaters in London".

'Stronger powers'

But the appeal judge at Horseferry Road Magistrates Court ruled on Friday that there were no grounds to turn down the application to extend the licence.

Ministers have defended the Licensing Act from criticism it will lead to binge drinking and alcohol-fuelled crime by saying it gives councils the power to take into account local opposition to late opening.

Speaking after the appeal hearing, Westminster councillor Audrey Lewis said: "This is exactly what the Licensing Act was not supposed to do.

"[Culture Secretary] Tessa Jowell has been saying she's going to give local authorities and local residents the responsibility of deciding what they need in their areas, and the first time we try it, the district judge overrules it."

But licensing minister James Purnell told BBC London: "If there are any concerns that materialise, the residents, the police, the local authorities can ask for a review of their licences at any stage.

"That is a much stronger power than existed before."




SEE ALSO:
Opposition plan to halt drink law
11 Aug 05 |  UK Politics


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