Outrage over lap dancing club bid

11:35am Sunday 23rd June 2013

By James Connell

A LAP and pole dancing club featuring naked and topless women could be coming to Worcester.

The raunchy dancers could soon be cavorting all night long after an application was handed in to Worcester City Council licensing chiefs for a ‘sexual entertainment venue’ (SEV) at the former Funk Club in The Butts.

However, a spokesman for the applicant said licensing objectives about prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and protection of children from harm would be strictly adhered to.

He also said the regulation of such clubs was ‘extremely tight’ and there would be a strict ‘look but do not touch policy’. CCTV and licensed doorstaff would provide security.

He said signs would be ‘discreet’ with no ‘salacious’ photographs on display. He also said the building would need ‘a major refurbishment’ if the licence was granted.

The club, which was originally a lap dancing club called Images, is opposite the iconic Hive, the library and history centre opened by the Queen in July last year.

The application for the licence to the venue which has a working title of ‘Black Cherry’, was handed in on Monday (June 17) by applicant, Ashvin Patel who was described by his spokesman as a businessman who was ‘branching out’.

The venue would be open Monday to Sunday, 7pm to 6am. A 28-day consultation period on the application now begins, closing on July 15.

The proposal provoked concern from retired senior local government official and father-of-three Adam Scott of Laugherne Road, St John’s, Worcester, who spotted the application notice outside the club.

Mr Scott, who regularly uses the Hive and had responsibility for licensing during his career, said: “I was appalled to see that there is an application for a pole dancing club being made on The Butts. It proposes being open for seven days a week, all night long, where men can go for sexual gratification.

“This is completely unsuitable in such a location that is used by many young people and is right opposite the houses of Magdala Court. Whether you agree with the morality of such places or not, it’s something we don't want to see anywhere in the city centre and certainly not here.”

The application has been submitted to Worcestershire regulatory services and will be determined by Worcester City Council’s licensing committee. No date for the meeting has been set yet.

The same site was home to lap dancing club Images around five years ago. There are no SEVs licensed to operate in Worcester at the moment.

Coun Jabba Riaz, vice-chairman of the licensing committee, a police and crime panel member and a ward councillor who represents the city centre, said it was important to be objective about the application as the site had previously been a lap dancing club.

He said: “We have to look at what conditions were put on the previous licence and check what incidents occurred in the area of that premises when it was a lap dancing club.

"We have just built a £60 million Hive right opposite which Her Majesty the Queen opened in a historic and beautiful setting. Would this add to that beautiful, historic setting? Would it add to the character of the area? It is a cultural centre and I don’t think it will do the area any justice at all.

"But we live in a free market economy where anybody can apply for anything but this is where Worcester licensing officers and planning officers have to look at the bigger context of the city and where this sits in the future image we want of Worcester.”

City MP Robin Walker said it was a matter for the licensing committee but added: “I’m sure they will want to look carefully at it and make sure public decency issues are protected.”

The application will be determined under the Policing and Crime Act 2009, which came into force in 2010. The Act sets out the grounds for refusal of an SEV licence application. West Mercia Police will be consulted.

Grounds for refusing the licence could include the applicant being convicted of an offence or if granting the licence would be inappropriate to the character of the area.

Worcester City Council also has the power to attach various conditions if an SEV licence is approved connected to opening hours, displays and advertisements on or in sex establishments, the visibility of the interior of a sex establishment to passers-by and any change of use from one kind of sex establishment to another.

Any residents wishing to give their views on the application should do so in writing by July 15, the day the consultation closes. They can do so by post to WRS, PO Box 866, Worcester WR1 9DP or by email (wrsenquiries@worcsregservices.gov.uk). All correspondence should quote the application reference number 13/00129/SEV.

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