Shoreditch strip clubs call for rethink of ‘nil’ policy

Hackney’s longstanding strip clubs claim they are still at risk under the town hall’s new sex ban despite councillors’ steps to protect them.

Club owners are calling on town hall bosses to rethink their decision to impose a ‘nil’ licensing policy on sex entertainment venues in all Hackney wards – including Haggerston, where the borough’s five existing businesses are based.

Councillors outlawed all future strip clubs and sex shops from the borough in January but made an exception for “well-run, longstanding” establishments - referring to Ye Olde Axe, Browns, Rainbow Sports Bar, and The White Horse and sex shop Expectations.

The decision came despite opposition from workers and residents, who voted widely against the ‘nil’ policy.

Existing club owners are now asking the council to guarantee that they will escape the ban.

“Councillors say publicly that their intention is to stop new strip clubs opening but not to close down existing businesses,” said solicitor Bill Parry-Davies, who is representing Brown’s in Hackney Road and The White Horse in Shoreditch High Street.

“We have written to Hackney for confirmation that longstanding businesses that are well run are a genuine exception and that their licence renewals will not be refused on nil policy grounds.”

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Denise Chandler, owner of Brown’s, said: “Brown’s is a longstanding business of 30 years and I have always complied with all the council’s regulatory requirements of my licence. If the council refuses licences it will lose the control it presently has over regulated businesses like mine. If Brown’s is forced to close there will be others who are prepared to run similar businesses illegally in Shoreditch. Most of the people working in the business are women and they will suffer if Brown’s closes and they have to work for criminals.”

All licensing applications for sex entertainment establishments in 2011 will be subject to Hackney’s ‘nil’ policy, under the current regulations.

A town hall spokeswoman said: “The council is considering the letter received, and will be in touch with the sender in due course.”