Edinburgh's lap-dancing clubs 'should be banned' or alcohol stopped amid council plans to control trade

CALLS have been made for lap-dancing clubs to be “banned outright” as council chiefs are set to press ahead with proposals to subject the trade to a licensing system in the Capital.

Wednesday, 16th October 2019, 5:00 pm
Updated Thursday, 17th October 2019, 5:30 pm
Edinburgh's 'pubic triangle'. Picture: TSPL

A Labour councillor has blasted the Scottish Government for failing to outlaw sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) and has also appealed for any licensing regime to ensure no alcohol is consumed by patrons on the premises.

Edinburgh City Council is expected to press ahead with introducing a licensing regime for sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) after 65 per cent of people asked in a consultation backed giving the authority more control over how the trade operates in the Capital.

If the officer recommendations are agreed by councillors on Tuesday, a policy and conditions of licence will be drawn up including number of venues, locations or appropriate areas of the city where SEVs can operate.

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The authority’s regulatory officers said that “it is clear there is strong support for the introduction of a licensing system for SEVs”, but acknowledged there are a “broad range of views” concerning a cap on the number of venues or where SEVs can operate.

Labour Cllr Mandy Watt, who works part-time for Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre, has warned that campaigners believe the industry can become a “gateway to prostitution” and that the Scottish Government should have shown “courage” and banned SEVs, but instead bowed to “industry pressure”.

She said: “Sexual entertainment venues are relics of the past and they don’t have a place in a modern city that values equality.

“Instead the Scottish Government has passed onto councils a framework to try to work within when they simply should have banned them outright.”

She added: “Given that they have not been banned, we should have a licensing system that should be very stringent around harm reduction.

“Sexual entertainment and alcohol are not a good mix. I would be keen to see venues having to surrender their alcohol licence and alcohol not be consumed on the premises.”

The Scottish Government said that a licensing regime will let councils “consider local circumstances” and set the number of venues allowed to operate – which could be put at zero if appropriate.

An Edinburgh-based charity, which campaigns to end violence against women, has welcomed potentially giving the city council more control of SEVs – which could lead to better working conditions and safety measures for performers.

Rachel Adamson, co-director of Zero Tolerance, said: “Sexual entertainment venues are a gendered issue – the vast majority of performers are young women, and the majority of patrons are men.

“These venues normalise the objectification and sexualisation of women.”

She added: “Using new licenses, the council could regulate venues to ensure proper worker’s rights, prevent harassment of staff, coercion or trafficking.

“The safety of performers at the venues must be the council’s top priority. Any action should be informed by what performers say they need.”

There are currently four SEVs operating in Edinburgh – three in the West Port area and another at Shandwick Place.

The consultation also revealed that 61 per cent either agree or strongly agree that the council should set a maximum number of SEVs that can operate in certain localities in the city.

Conservative Cllr Cameron Rose said: “I have concerns about exploitation of vulnerable people and concerns about people trafficking.

“Whilst licensing gives a means to exert controls, there is also dangers in legitimising unhelpful activity and in the complexity of managing such a licensing system.”

The council’s regulatory convener, Cllr Catherine Fullerton, added: “If approved, work will be done to develop the necessary policy and conditions of licences for public consultation prior to final approval by committee. Feedback and comments to the initial consultation will be an important part of this development work.”

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