Page last updated at 15:36 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Stringfellow slams lapdance plans

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Peter Stringfellow slams lap-dance plans

Peter Stringfellow has told MPs that plans to make lapdance clubs apply for "sexual encounter" licences are wrong.

The London club owner said councils had powers to penalise premises putting on nude shows, which was sufficient.

Opponents of lapdance establishments want them to be put in the same category as sex shops, making it easier for people to stop them opening.

But Mr Stringfellow told the Commons culture committee that councils should focus on closing down "bad clubs".

Location

Under current licensing law, lapdance clubs are placed in the same category as pubs and cafes.

This means councils are unable to take into account the kind of customers they might attract, or the suitability of the location, when awarding an alcohol licence.

The Local Government Association says this means officials are powerless to stop their spread.

Lapdancing clubs are linked to sexual exploitation, promote sexism and create no-go areas for women.
Sandrine Levêque, Object

It is calling for lapdance clubs to be reclassified as "sex encounter establishments" - as happens with peep shows in London - allowing local authorities to have more of a say in where they are placed.

But Mr Stringfellow, originally from Sheffield, said this would make it harder for premises to open.

They would effectively have to go through the planning, rather than the licensing, process, he argued.

'Gentlemen's clubs'

He added: "The idea of planning should be kept out of this... I've been involved in planning on two occasions and we are talking about years.

"Planning is much more complex and we shouldn't be involved in such problems."

Mr Stringfellow said: "Mine are not sexual encounter clubs. They are gentlemen's clubs."

He told the MPs a sexual encounter licence in Westminster borough, where his clubs are based, would cost £30,000.

He added: "I don't deserve to be treated in this way. My licences are correct and proper.

"I don't want anyone coming into my clubs thinking they are going to get a sexual encounter."

Chippendales

Councils already had the power to prevent clubs gaining alcohol licences if they featured nudity or semi-nudity.

Asked about his own establishments, he said: "Of course it's sexually stimulating, but so is a disco, so is a pretty girl.

"So is David Beckham with his gear on. So are the Chippendales. I went to see them and I was the only man among 3,000 females."

He added that his clubs were "not so sexually stimulating that you go home and get divorced and look for a dancer to live with".

Mr Stringfellow, whose two London clubs have featured nude dancing girls since the mid-1990s said: "There are bad clubs. There are bad restaurants. There are bad films. There are bad discotheques.

"It's up to local authorities and police to close them down."

But Sandrine Levêque, head of campaigns at the Object group, which is pushing for a change in licensing laws, said: "Lap dancing clubs are not just harmless fun.

"They are linked to sexual exploitation, promote sexism and create no-go areas for women.

"Yet these factors cannot be considered in licensing which is why the law must change".

In June licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe wrote to local authorities asking whether the clubs were "adequately controlled" by the existing legislation.

He said it was "clear that the protections and regulations set out in the 2003 [Licensing] Act and elsewhere do not go as far as some people would like".

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SEE ALSO
In the lap of the council
03 Nov 08 |  UK
Tougher lap dance licensing urged
15 Aug 08 |  UK Politics
Tories urge curbs on lap-dancing
24 Jul 08 |  UK Politics

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