Under the Policing and Crime Act 2009, lap dancing clubs were reclassified as sexual entertainment venues, meaning they must renew their license annually.
However, last Thursday the Oxford City Council revealed that it had refused to renew the license, effectively banning any lap dancing on the premises.
The application to renew the license attracted 23 letters of support, but also raised 20 objections. Most of these noted the club’s proximity to a local ice skating rink and to Cherwell College, both of which are open in evenings. The comments also mentioned the adverse effects of an institution which many deem degrading and objectifying towards women.
Those writing in support generally said that the club was a professional and well-run establishment, which had been granted a license the previous year. They also noted the risk of unemployment for nearly 50 dancers and other assorted club staff working there.
One letter of objection stated: “Such entertainment debases and degrades women and legitimatises a view of women as existing for men’s sexual appetite. Such a venue contributes to a threatening context for women and helps perpetuate an environment for sexual assault and other related crimes.”
Another letter, written by Susanna Pressell, City Councillor for Jericho and Osney Ward, commented: “The purpose of the club is obvious to those who use these facilities even during the day.
“It is also next to a public coach park where visitors arrive from all over the world to visit Oxford. Furthermore, there are many residents nearby, especially young people, who are at risk from departing patrons under the influence of the pornography they have been watching.”
However, one patron responded: “This club provides excellent entertainment of a high standard and I frequently take my wife with me when visiting.”
A dancer at the club stated that she wished to take the opportunity to “say that during my employment I have found all the owners and directors a pleasure to work for.”
Van Coulter, the Labour councillor and chairman of the committee which ruled to reject the clubs’ application, said that objectors had displayed evidence of “harassment of women” from passers-by in the vicinity.
She continued: “This, together with similar evidence, suggested an atmosphere of fear and hostility had arisen in the vicinity of the club since it opened.
“The vicinity of the club included a public highway – and a case was sufficiently made to illustrate that people had genuine concerns about walking through the area to get home.
“It was decided that the acceptable remedy for addressing this level of harm was to refuse the renewal of the sexual entertainment license.”
Club owner Al Thompson has stated that he will fight to appeal the decision, and that the club will remain open as a nightclub. Despite this, the club now appears to be closed during opening hours, and attempts to contact the management have been unsuccessful.