Shut threat looms as saunas fight licence loss

Saunas could become 'sex therapy centres'. Picture: Toby Williams
Saunas could become 'sex therapy centres'. Picture: Toby Williams
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SIX city saunas which had their licences suspended by council chiefs were today set to appeal – but could still be shut down as early as October.

Bosses at the saunas threatened with closure were given 28 days to lodge an appeal against the move. The period runs out on Wednesday.

All six establishments are understood to be filing appeals today, and “definitely” plan to fight the bid to close their doors.

Peter Donoghue, a former sauna boss who represented three of the businesses at the council meeting, said he expected the court cases to be heard in October – the same month the licences of the city’s saunas come up for renewal.

Sauna bosses have waited until close to the 28-day deadline to maximise the time they could remain open. Under council rules, the saunas are able to stay in operation until the courts make a ruling.

The saunas set to appeal are the Paradise in Roseburn Terrace, The New Gentle Touch in Argyle Place, the Dundas Street Sauna, Scorpio Leisure in Albion Road, the Blair Street Sauna, and the New Town Sauna in Hart Street.

The licence suspensions followed two waves of police raids in June, which saw seven people charged in connection with brothel keeping and living off immoral earnings.

Mr Donoghue, who represents the Paradise, Dundas Street and New Gentle Touch, said: “The appeals are likely to be submitted today. All six of the saunas will definitely be appealing before the 28 days are up on Wednesday.

“These will be civil cases and we’ve got a very good lawyer. Last year we appealed over suspended licences at the Dundas Street Sauna and the Paradise Sauna and those took a year to be heard in court. The appeals were successful and the licences were granted only a few weeks before the raids.

“We think it will be faster this time. I would expect the cases to be heard in October, the same time as all the licences come up for renewal. It could drag on though, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Mr Donoghue has already insisted that a court ruling against them would not see the saunas close up without a fight. He has suggested the saunas could even rebrand themselves “sex therapy centres” in order to apply for licences under a new guise if the appeals fail.

He added: “We hope to be successful in court, but if we aren’t then we won’t be bullied. We’ll look at other ways to remain open.

“The police have been over-ruling the council. We’re standing up to this because we feel it’s important to do so.”

There are fears Edinburgh’s 13 licensed saunas could be closed after the radical shift from the typically pragmatic approach to prostitution which kept sex workers off the streets.

But Chief Superintendent Mark Williams, the city’s police commander, has said that there had been “no change in the way we police prostitution” in Edinburgh.

A council spokesman said: “No appeal has been lodged with the sheriff yet, but if a licence holder chooses to appeal then the council will respond. The appeals process is with the courts, so it’s a matter for them.”