Memorandum submitted by The Lap Dancing
"THE REAL BODY OF EVIDENCE"
The Lap Dancing Association is the only established
trade body representing the UK's responsible and professional
lap-, pole- and table dancing club operators. We represent a third
of all lap dancing clubs in the UK. The LDA's aim is to promote
the highest standards of professionalism and responsibility towards
our staff, dancers, customers and local communities.
You will be aware that the licensing regime
for lap dancing clubs has recently been subject to political and
media criticismin particular the degree of proliferation
and the level of scrutiny clubs are subject to. Campaigns by feminist
groups are based in a series of misleading myths about the industry.
This brief seeks to clarity the situation.
"Lap Dancing Clubs are licensed in the same
way as coffee shops"
This is simply untrue. Unless they serve refreshments
after 11.00 pm coffee shops don't even need a licence. Lap dancing
clubs on the other hand are covered by the Licensing Act 2003.
The Act introduced one type of licence to replace the previously
required six forms of generic licence. This change was implemented
specifically to introduce more effective controls on premises'
licensable activities via local authorities' new power to impose
individually tailored permissions. Since the implementation of
the Act, over 170,000 individually tailored permissions have been
implemented on licensed premises, with conditions appropriate
to the risk and nature of the business being applied.
Those applying for "regulated entertainment"
under their premises licence are subject to rigorous scrutiny
and a public consultation process. Indeed, premises must also
tick Box N on the licence application to state their intention
of offering entertainment of an adult nature. Premises licences
are tailored to the activities that will be offered by each venue,
using a clearly defined operating schedule. This sets out how
lap dancing clubs will comply with the four objectives of the
the prevention of crime and disorder;
the prevention of public nuisance;
the protection of children from harm.
A lap dancing club's licence is tailored to
the needs of the business and carries specific conditions, many
of which have been proposed by the operator. Some examples of
licence conditions include:
licensed door supervision;
strict age-related admissions policy;
nature of the entertainment eg partial
The Lap Dancing Association has a code of conduct
for operators and dancers which can also be used by Local Authorities
as model conditions on a licence.
The reality is that regulation and restrictions
on offering a latte or a lap dance are poles apart.
"Café style licensing means local
authorities and local people have little or no say over where
or how many clubs set up"
This again is simply untrue. Concerns about
need or whether a new club is appropriate for a local community
are, first and foremost, considered under the local planning regime.
Local authorities have almost unbounded discretion to grant or
reject an application. In considering planning permissions, they
also have the ability to adopt local plans setting out policies
in respect of certain types of licensed premises, including lap
dancing clubs. Additionally, nightclubs are categorised a "sui
generis" under the Use Classes Order in planning legislation.
This ensures that any operator wishing to turn their premises
into a nightclub must undergo a fully consultative planning permission
process. Obtaining planning permission is by far the biggest hurdle
operators face when opening a new lap dancing club. Many applications
are flatly refused at planning stage.
In addition, the Licensing Act 2003 introduced
a right for residents to oppose an application, complain about
an existing operator and call for a review of a licence. Contrary
to what is claimed by the Fawcett Society, this right is not restricted
to those living within 100m of an outlet. The Act does not define
any vicinity; residents need only demonstrate that they are affected
by an application or outlet. Local residents are able to object
to any application on the grounds that it does not meet one or
more of the four licensing objectives. Local authorities can only
take such objections into account. It is not in the local authorities'
power to refuse an application on the grounds of subjective moral
This was a very significant change from the
previous 1964 Act. A single objection can halt a licence application
in its tracks and a single complaint can lead to the revocation
of the licence. By way of example, in a recent case in Durham,
a Council ignored objections from local residents and the Magistrates
Court reversed their decision, showing how effective and influential
local complaints can be.
The reality is that planning and licensing restrictions
give local authorities and local communities full powers of consultation,
complaint and control.
"There has been massive expansion and normalisation
of the lap-dancing industry since the Licensing Act came into
The first Lap Dancing Club in the UK was opened
in 1995. Industry figures for this year show approximately 150
dedicated lap-, pole- and table dancing clubs across England and
Wales, which in fact represents very gradual growth, in the context
of a growing hospitality industry. As set out above, the implementation
of the Licensing Act 2003 has not made it easier to get a licence
for a lap dancing club. In fact the controls in place are more
rigorous than the former regime.
The relatively small growth in lap dancing clubs
should also be viewed within the context of an expanding and mature
UK leisure industry. There are approximately 57,000 pubs and bars
across England and Wales. The reality is that the lap dancing
industry is a small but vibrant part of the UK entertainment industry
that has grown steadily. It is worth noting that official licensing
statistics do not separate out lap-, pole- and table- dancing
clubs from general pub, bar and club industry statistics, meaning
there is no way for Object and Fawcett Society to substantiate
their claim that the number of lap dancing venues has "doubled"
to 300 across the UK since the implementation of the Licensing
The reality is that generating fears of a "massive
expansion" supports the case for those with a moral objection
to the very existence of the industry. Such subjective assessments
can and should have no place in the regulatory regime for a legitimate
Lap dancing clubs are part of the commercial sex
Lap dancing clubs are a small part of the vibrant
UK leisure and entertainment industry. They are not sex encounter
establishments. Our performers are financially independent, self-employed
women. They are not sex workers.
LDA member clubs have "acceptable behaviour
standards" for customers and invest in CCTV and licensed
security staff to ensure high standards of management. Each performer
is required to observe a rigorous dancers' code of practice.
We do not condone illegal activity. Any demand
for sexual services from a customer will result in eviction from
the premises. Performers are clearly warned that making any inappropriate
arrangements will lead to dismissal from the Club.
The reality is that, while lap dancing is a
sexy industry, sex is not for sale.
We would also cite that on average, our clubs
derive 70% of turnover from sale of alcohol, and 30% from dances.
The performance of lap dancing is ancillary to alcohol sales.
Requiring lap dancing clubs to have an additional
Sex Encounter Establishment Licence (SEEL) would give local authorities
There is a campaign calling for the "reclassification"
of lap dancing clubs. This is in itself a myth. The imposition
of a Sex Encounter Establishment Licence (SEEL) regime would not
constitute a "reclassification", but rather a secondary
licence and additional layer of regulation.
In reality, an additional SEEL licence would
do nothing to increase local authorities' power to control the
operation of and activity within lap dancing clubs. It would leave
existing bad practice and irresponsible operations untouched.
The only thing a SEEL regime would do is to give local authorities
the power to refuse outright an application for adult entertainment
Local authorities already have considerable
powers to regulate the opening and operation of lap dancing outlets,
and need to be made more aware of the full extent of them.
The SEEL was introduced under the Local Government
(Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982. Its purpose is to regulate
those establishments offering entertainment of an adult nature
that do not sell alcohol, such as sex cinemas and sex shops. As
such premises do not sell alcohol, they do not require a regular
premises licence and therefore fall outside of any form of regulation.
The SEEL was therefore developed to provide regulation for these
When the SEEL regime was introduced, there was
some discussion as to whether its provisions should be extended
to cover adult entertainment provided in licensed premises. The
matter was also raised during the passage of the Licensing Act
2003. Both times it was agreed that the licensing regime was the
most appropriate mechanism for regulating this type of entertainment.
Dual licensing was explicitly rejected.
While we very much share concerns about unregulated
or inadequately controlled establishments, the LDA does not support
current suggestions that lap dancing clubs should be required
to hold an additional SEEL. Two licences would be an unnecessary
and costly duplication of regulation for the established industry,
which will not improve standards, help protect the dancers or
prevent opportunistic pubs from offering unregulated strip nights.
All of this can, however, be effected through the Licensing Act
The reality is that the imposition of SEELs
on already licensed premises would involve huge practical problems
for licensing authorities and operators, as a robust and detailed
description of nude or partially nude entertainment would have
to be drawn up. If not, the licence could inadvertently capture
everything from traditional burlesquemade popular today
by Dita Von Teeseto naked actors on stage in the theatrelike
Daniel Radcliffe in Equus. Impromptu performances by stag-do strippers
could also find themselves in breach of licence conditions.
Furthermore, the SEEL would simply cost operators
an estimated extra £8000 per year to run their businesses
in exactly the same manner as before, but under a bad name. Neither
our clubs nor performers would accept the "sex industry"
"Lap dancing clubs create no go areas for
women and increase sex crimes"
There is no evidence to suggest that lap dancing
clubs create no go areas for women, or increase sex crimes.
Groups opposed to lap dancing clubs base this
assertion on a one-sided small scale report in Camden, conducted
by Lilith and Eaves Housing For Women. The report can in no way
be held up as an independent, unbiased analysis of the impact
of lap-dancing clubs. The author says "Of course it would
be wonderful if strip clubs could be eradicated tomorrow".
The report associates increases in rape and
indecent assault specifically with the presence of lap dancing
clubs in the area, despite the fact that these licensed venues
represent just 0.35% of the late night entertainment venues in
Camden. Camden has approaching 2,000 pubs, 129 licensed entertainment
venues; of these only seven are lap dancing clubs.
Metropolitan Police statistics in fact show
Rape offences in Camden fell by 53%
between 1999-2000 to 2007-08.
Other sexual offences in Camden fell
by 3.8% between 1999-2000 to 2007-08.
Latest figures show that residents
of Camden are less likely to be a victim of a rape or a sexual
offence than residents in Westminster or Islington (boroughs used
for comparison in the report),
The reality is that there is no evidence to
suggest that there are significant problems relating to other
forms of disorder, anti-social behaviour or public nuisance surrounding
the operation of lap dancing clubs. Indeed, all the evidence points
to the contrary. For example, analysis of Birmingham police call-out
statistics reveals 14 incidents per lap-dancing club as compared
to 77 per conventional nightclub.
There is simply no evidence to demonstrate a
causal link between the opening of lap dancing clubs and crime.
"Lap dancing clubs do not comply with local
authority obligations under the gender equality duty"
Gender Equality Duty requires Local Authorities
to "proactively promote gender equality". We can only
assume that the anti-lap dancing campaigners are trying to suggest
that granting licences to clubs where self employed women dance
freely under their own volition is somehow discriminatory.
The reality is that this is clearly not true.
"Lap Dancing objectifies women"
Objectification is an entirely subjective attitude
and we simply support a woman's right to do the job she wants.
To suggest that women who are confident in their naked bodies
are somehow anti-feminist is wrong, and sets the feminist debate
back half a century. Dancers are self-employed and frequently
financially stable individuals. There is an enjoyment and pride
in their profession, for which they train and rehearse with great
Our criticisers have obviously never visited
a lap dancing club. The reality is that, if they had, they would
realise that although the girls take their tops off, it is definitely
they who wear the trousers.
9 Lilith Report, p13. Back
Research conducted by Bill Martland, Lap dance clubs and crime
and disorder: Modern myths and reality, 2006. Back