Edinburgh bosses refuses request to close sauna

The New Town Sauna will reopen for five weeks. Picture: Dan Phillips
The New Town Sauna will reopen for five weeks. Picture: Dan Phillips
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A SAUNA shut down following a police raid has been given the go-ahead to open for business again for the next five weeks.

Councillors decided to refuse a police request to close down the New Town Sauna in Hart Street by making a temporary suspension of its license permanent.

Instead they agreed to hold a hearing into possible suspension of the property’s public entertainment licence at the end of next month.

Councillor Gavin Barrie, convener of the licensing sub-committee, said: “A public entertainment licence was reviewed by the committee following an emergency suspension. The suspension has been lifted pending further consideration of the matter at a future committee meeting.”

The New Town Sauna was one of seven raided by police on June 7. Senior police officers have denied the blitz represents a move away from Edinburgh’s traditionally pragmatic approach to prostitution.

Councillors have in the past been accused of turning a blind eye to sex for sale in city saunas.

A council source said yesterday’s licensing sub-committee was given a “graphic” description of what police found when they raided the Hart Street premises. It is understood police alleged the activity they uncovered constituted a breach of licence conditions.

But the source said the committee felt a decision to suspend the licence on the basis of the information from the police would not have been upheld in the event of an appeal.

The decision took police by surprise. A Police Scotland spokesman said: “We note the decision of the Board in this case.

“We will continue to work closely with our partners at the council and elsewhere to keep people safe and protect vulnerable individuals from abuse.

“Premises inspections will continue, allowing us to ensure realistic regulation and the ability to intervene in any criminality or abusive behaviour.”

The Evening News revealed yesterday that police are planning to bring a further five of the Capital’s 13 saunas to the attention of the committee.

‘Judges, policemen and builders use our services’

A former sauna boss has lifted the lid on the industry claiming it is the ‘worst it has ever been’.

Michael Angelos Tomaz, right, 57, from Edinburgh, worked in the business for 21 years before retiring on health grounds.

Mr Tomaz, who described himself as a former dominatrix, said smaller, well-run establishments were being put of business by larger firms adopting criminal practices.

He said: “These other places operating today, when they say they can make £2000 a day, it’s nonsense. If you watch the number of people who go in and out of the premises there is no way that could be possible, they can only make that sort of money through their other misdemeanours.”

During his career, Mr Tomaz, who retired 13 years ago, ran Bodytech in Haddington Place, Scruples/Cher’s Private Club in Annandale Street and Atlantis in Portobello at various times.

On average, eight clients would visit his saunas each day.

He said: “I’ve seen it all – judges, advocates, QCs, policemen, firemen, builders, they all used to come to use our services.

“If the businesses were run the way we did, legitimately, there would be no problems. A lot of these premises are unclean and there are things going on there that shouldn’t be – people smoking, taking drugs.

“It all comes down to who the licensee is – the council should close them down and reopen them so that they run properly.”