Eastbourne strip club licence is renewed

A strip club’s annual licence has been renewed by Eastbourne councillors despite objectors raising equalities concerns, writes local democracy reporter Huw Oxburgh.

Friday, 24th January 2020, 10:46 am
A strip club is planned above the Embassy nightclub in Pevensey Road, Eastbourne (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-190310-100102008

On Thursday (January 23), a panel of Eastbourne Borough Council’s licensing committee approved the renewal of a Sexual Entertainment Venue licence for Lux – a yet-to-open strip club above the Embassy nightclub in Pevensey Road.

The renewal had been called in to the committee in light of objections raised by the   Eastbourne branch of Soroptimists International – a group which describes itself as working to “improve the lives of women and girls”.

In its submission the group argued the club would go against the council’s equality and fairness duty to ensure all individuals feel “valued, safe and protected”.

No representative of the group attended the meeting in person, but in a letter to the council, a spokesperson for the group said: “Ventures like the proposed strip club do little to promote the town as a desirable place to live, work and visit. 

“Approval of such premises by the council is a totally unacceptable development in the 21st century in a town seeking regeneration and focuses on financial gain rather than the wellbeing of residents of our town.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this view was disputed by representatives of the owner present at the meeting.

Speaking on behalf of owner Gino Forte (also the owner of Embassy), licensing barrister John Rankin argued the conditions put in place on the licence would make performers feel ‘valued, safe and respected’. 

He said: “If we had been operating I would be able to call some performers and tell you how they felt about working for clubs such as this. But because we haven’t been operating much of what is suggested in this representation is speculation about what might happen. 

“What we do know is that the people who will be employed as dancers at this club will be men and women, although not at the same time.

“We know that the people who will be dancing in these premises will do so willingly. We know, because of experience, that some of them will be using this as an opportunity to fund further education in a number of instances.

“There are then a series of rules. Not simply those imposed in the body of the licence itself but also those volunteered by us as operation of the premises.

“They go a very great way to answering that rhetorical question asked by the Soroptimists. ‘How valued, safe and respected do performers in a strip club feel?’”

Mr Rankin also told the committee that Mr Forte was in discussions with two potential operators. He said that the renewal of the licence would be necessary for these negotiations to move ahead, however.

While no objectors spoke officially at the meeting, Mr Rankin’s representation was briefly interrupted when an audience member stood and stated his objections to licence being renewed. 

The man, who said he agreed with the view of the Soroptimists, left the room immediately after voicing his objections. 

After hearing from Mr Rankin the sub-committee retired for around 40 minutes to consider their decision in private before agreeing to renew the licence. 

Giving  its decision, chairman Pat Rodohan said: “The sub-committee fully appreciated, and to a degree shared, the concerns raised by the objector. 

“However, the sub-committee considered that at this time, with the premises not having opened, there are no valid reasons to refuse a renewal.” 

The club was first granted its licence in December 2018 (after it was approved by a licensing panel in July of that year) and is required to renew it each year. 

Its original licence was amended in September, as owners said its terms made it impossible to find an operator willing to take it on.

These terms included a prohibition on full nudity and a requirement for performers to stay one metre away from customers.

During the amendment application, representatives for the club argued a ‘no touching rule’ would be easier to enforce and that customers would expect full nudity, as it was the normal practice in strip clubs in other parts of the country

The amendment was approved as requested at that meeting and renewed as part of this most recent hearing..