Hackney strip bar could lose license after breaching Covid rules

Ye Old Axe on Hackney Road has applied for a renewal of its sexual entertainments licence

Ye Old Axe on Hackney Road has applied for a renewal of its sexual entertainments licence, but some residents oppose the renewal - Credit: Google Maps

A pub offering nude stripteases fell foul of Covid rules when dancers got too close to customers, a licensing hearing has heard.

Ye Old Axe on Hackney Road has applied for a renewal of its sexual entertainments licence.

Owner Thomas Melody was fined £1,000 after licensing officers discovered breaches of Covid rules on two visits in July last year.

Licensing officers said there were no QR codes and customers were not asked to provide their details for contact-tracing.

There was no social distancing or table service and customers were not wearing face coverings. 

Lawyer David Forbes said the lifting of government restrictions was delayed from June 26 until July 19, but Melody was called away on a family crisis and the pub’s restrictions were mistakenly lifted too early.

It would not happen again, he said, and felt the matter had been dealt with by the fixed penalty notice.

Most Read

Mr Forbes said: “It would be wholly disproportionate to revoke a premises licence which he has held for 30 years, on this ground."

A report by the undercover licensing officers said: “Customers were approached or appeared to be able to approach numerous women in the bar area, and were escorted by the women to a large upstairs room where for either £40 or £60 the women stripped completely.”

It added that performances were "intimate and physical", breaching many of the standards demanded by premises operating as sexual entertainment venues.

Forbes explained that Melody had not known that dancers were too close to customers when undercover licensing officers visited.

The licensing conditions mean performers have to be separated from customers.

The private area has since been moved downstairs so it can be supervised more closely, Mr Forbes said.

He explained that “steps have been taken to remind the dancers of the licence conditions".

Six neighbours opposed the application, with one unnamed resident claiming to have witnessed fights outside the venue.

They also claimed touting by taxi drivers offering to take people to places “where sexual services are on offer”.

Melody refuted these claims at the council's licensing committee on January 25 and said police had never been called to fights.

The committee will publish its decision in five working days.