STRIP clubs and adult entertainment venues across Edinburgh are expected to bid for new late-night operating hours after licensing leaders handed one venue a 3am extension.
Fantasy Palace has become the first sex industry club to be allowed to open until 3am, and police are now warning city leaders to expect a flood of new applications from other venues.
Lawyers acting for the West End lap dancing bar claimed it needs to open later to compete with Glasgow, Aberdeen and Dundee and would lose business otherwise.
They also suggested closing at the existing time of 1am led to more revellers pouring down Lothian Road looking for other venues.
Police told members of the Edinburgh licensing board that the move would be setting a precedent and to expect every other adult venue to now bid for a 3am licence.
Further police resources would also be required to patrol the area due to the later closing time, the force added.
If other clubs successfully apply under the same precedent it is likely to lead to a trend in the city’s red light industry towards later events, with more crowds emerging at 3am.
Half of the board – made up of of police, health experts, council licensing officials and city councillors – opposed the controversial decision.
However, licensing leader Eric Milligan said he was prepared to make an exception and forced the application through with his deciding vote.The club highlighted the fact that it and other venues originally had 3am licences around a decade ago, prior to a shift in the way the licensing chiefs dealt with the industry.
Licensing lawyer Alistair Macdonald, representing Fantasy Palace, said: “In every other city in Scotland adult entertainment venues have 3am [closing times].
“Clients arrive at 11pm or midnight only to be told that the venue closes at 1am. It’s actually far more hassle to have them walking down Lothian Road looking for somehwere to go.
“It’s much better that my client keep them at the venue and look after them.”
Fantasy Palace opened in 2003 and is billed as an upmarket adult venue for businessmen, along with hen and stag parties.
It hit the headlines the following year after becoming Scotland’s only pornographic cinema.
Owner Gino Di Ponio converted one of its three bars to screen adult films during the Festival, although the club did have permission from Edinburgh City Council.
Board member Joanna Mowat, who opposed the extension, saidthat making an exception for a single premises would lead to a flood of new applications.
She said: “This is essentially changing policy on the hoof and we are leaving ourselves open to a flood of applications. We did go to a vote and we didn’t have much discussion about it.
“I’m not quite sure why those board members voted the way they did and it’s left us in a difficult position.
“We’re going to have to explain quite clearly why we granted this exception and I’m not quite sure what the reason is.
“I presume Councillor Milligan was convinced it was a unique case.”
Time gentlemen, please
THE city council first announced all Capital strip clubs were to be forced to close by 1am as part of a major clampdown in May 2003.
At the time only one of the city’s five lapdancing venues, Bottoms Up on Lothian Road, had a late licence until 3am.
The new 1am closing time was passed as a result of attempts being made to open other strip clubs to the same time.
Fantasy Palace opened in August 2003, with flyers boasting the adult entertainment venue would be “open seven days a week until 3am”.
However, licensing chiefs later brought it in line with similar establishments, ruling that it would have to close at 1am.