Edinburgh strip club ban: Warning that ban on strip clubs will drive workers into dangerous market

A ban on strip clubs in Edinburgh will result in a “serious deterioration in women’s safety” and drive workers into a dangerous unregulated market, it has been warned.

Councillor Lewis Younie is calling on council officials to investigate the potential impacts of prohibiting sexual entertainment venues (SEVs) in the capital on people who earn a living in the industry.

The Lib Dem councillor called out the ‘moral panic’ of members of the Licensing Board who voted narrowly earlier this year in favour of introducing a ‘nil-cap’ policy on SEVs from April 2023 – which will effectively stop the city’s four strip bars from operating legally and prevent any new venues from opening in future.

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Union United Sex Workers (USW) claims that 100 jobs will be lost following the nil-cap and has successfully crowd-funded £20,000 to mount a legal challenge against the city council, arguing the ban is not compatible with the Equality Act.

Strip bar workers protest about Edinburgh Council's planned ban (Picture: Mina Karenina USW).

Councillor Younie argues the controversial move will “endanger people’s lives and encourage criminality”, leading to a rise in backroom brothels and unlicensed strip clubs by reducing the choices available to workers.

However, he is hopeful that a change in the make-up of the council chamber following May’s election – where he won a historic third seat for the Lib Dems in the Almond ward – can act as a catalyst for the decision to be reviewed and overturned.

He said: “The facts are unchanged but the balance of councillors has changed very dramatically,” adding the policy will not make anyone “healthier, happier or safer”.

On Thursday (August 25) he will present a motion to full council highlighting that entertainers “would continue to work in the industry despite the closures” and will be working in “completely unregulated environments”.

He will call on councillors to recognise this could lead to “the further deterioration of women’s safety” in Edinburgh – and also request that officials draft a report on the potential consequences for those in the industry, to be presented to members at a future meeting.

Councillor Younie said: “I wanted to have this decision revisited due to the serious deterioration in women’s safety that the Nil-Cap policy will lead to.

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“Fundamentally, the closure of these venues will endanger people’s lives, encourage criminality, and reduce the choices available to workers.

“I am a Liberal, so this issue is clear for me – empowering people to work, in safety is the moral decision for council to make.”