Edinburgh strip club ban: Strippers in fresh fears for jobs as council pushes ahead with plans to 'cap' lap-dancing venues
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Strippers in Edinburgh have called on the council not to press ahead with shutting the city's strip clubs down by imposing a ‘cap’ on venues.
The union representing dancers said workers are so worried about their future livelihoods some have suggested they would even open their own club in the Capital, to give them more safety and control over working conditions. It comes as another public consultation is underway on the controversial ‘nil cap’ policy, which would see the council stop awarding licences to adult entertainment venues and could force some of the existing venues to shut.
A ban on lap dancing clubs was due to come into force later this year but it was overturned, after a group of club owners and performers launched a legal challenge to the move. Councillors had voted to limit the number of sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) in the city from the current four to zero. However, the Court of Session struck the proposals down, after ruling that the city council had acted illegally by effectively banning lap-dancing clubs.
The council lawyers tried unsuccessfully to have the union representing dancers excluded from the Judicial review. Now the Council is now reconsidering what is an ‘appropriate’ number of SEVs and reviewing their policy. It has sparked fresh fears that the council could push ahead with shutting venues, which the union says will force women out of work in a cost of living crisis.
United Sex Workers union said dancers want the policy scrapped to allow more venues to open - including one set up and managed by dancers. Audrey, a spokesperson for United Sex Workers Union said: "Even if they set the cap at two, then two will close down. I think dancers would prefer to stay on in existing venues and improve conditions. But they also recognise that they are faced with a policy which doesn't offer them a chance to protect their jobs or rights.”
"Despite having their previous nil cap decision declared unlawful at a judicial review, it is disappointing to see that Edinburgh city council are yet again wasting more public funds and putting dancers livelihoods at risk by releasing a public consultation on the number of strip clubs allowed in the city.
“The dancers themselves have – yet again – not been contacted by the council, despite the licensing conditions directly impacting them. After over a year of having the threat of losing their jobs hung over their head, our members are again forced to fear for their jobs and financial security in the middle of a cost of living crisis.”
The Union argues that if the number of strip club licenses is reduced, not only will a number of dancers lose their jobs, but it will reinforce the monopoly strip club owners already have, reducing workers’ bargaining power to improve their working conditions. More licenses would give dancers the opportunity to open their own venue, and have direct control over the conditions of their work.
Audrey added: “This needless re-consultation seems like another attempt to shut clubs down. There’s nothing in the policy to suggest that they are interested in protecting the workers. Now this threat is looming again of dancers losing their jobs. It’s bleak that we are back here again. If the council cares about the safety of their constituents, and about workers rights, they would directly consult with the dancers on how to improve the licensing conditions, and not threaten their access to the work they’ve chosen to do.”
The consultation on licensing of sexual entertainment venues opened in July and runs until October. It’s stated on the website that the council could still decide to set the cap at zero.
"It is important to note that, following the Court of Session's decision that if the council chooses to determine an appropriate number of SEVs within Edinburgh or any of the relevant localities therein to be zero, then no SEV premises will be permitted to operate in Edinburgh. In such circumstances, any application received for a SEV licence would require to be refused.”
Cllr Neil Ross, Regulatory Convener said: “The Regulatory Committee voted to carry out a 12 week consultation to review the licensing policy on Sexual Entertainment Venues. This is live now and all views are welcome. Following the consultation the responses will be collated and considered by councillors with the new licensing scheme set to be implemented by 31 December.”