Glasgow’s three lap dancing clubs can stay open after licences were handed out for the first time — despite fears the city could become the “sex capital”.
Seventh Heaven, Diamond Dolls and Platinum Lace were granted three-year sexual entertainment venue (SEVs) licences by the city council on Wednesday, with the new regime set to come into force later this month.
It comes after councillors decided in March that no new clubs can open in Glasgow but venues already in operation would have ‘grandfather rights’ and could apply for licences.
Glasgow Violence Against Women Partnership urged the licensing committee to reject the applications, arguing the “presence of sexual entertainment venues contributes to the very existence of misogyny”.
Kirsti Hay, from the partnership, said all forms of “commercial sexual exploitation” contribute to “sustaining gender inequality”, objectifying women and “predatory behaviour within our society”.
Edinburgh’s licensing board voted in favour of introducing a ‘nil-cap’ policy on SEVs from April 2023, which will stop the city’s four strip bars from operating legally and prevent new venues from opening.
Ms Hay said this decision will “afford Glasgow the opportunity to become the sex capital” as a “city for stags, sex tourism and sex entertainment.”
But Cllr Alex Wilson, who chairs the licensing committee, said: “We’re not Edinburgh, we have explored this to a greater detail than what Edinburgh did. They made their own decisions based on whatever evidence sessions they held.
“In Glasgow we like to think of us as being proactive and thorough when it comes to making decisions. I like to think that we are pragmatic and we listen to people out there.”
He said consultation on the “robust” policy had included the violence against women partnership, the GMB sex workers’ union, dancers, club owners and lawyers. Cllr Wilson also took part in unannounced visits to clubs and reported “really good feedback” after asking “searching” questions.
The SNP councillor described the ruling as “historical” for Glasgow and said no objection from Police Scotland was a “key factor”. Residents and other women’s groups had also not objected, he added.
Powers to roll out a licensing regime for sexual entertainment venues were handed to councils by the Scottish Government in 2019. Under the new scheme, clubs will have to abide by conditions set out in a policy statement drawn up by the council following the consultation process.
These include ensuring signs are “discreet” and performers are “always appropriately clothed when they are outside the venue at any time it is open”. Code of conducts for customers are required, dancers must have “secure and private” changing facilities and private booths “must not be fully enclosed”.
All performers need to provide valid identification, such as a passport, before working at the venue and CCTV must be in use.
Archie MacIver, the licensing lawyer representing Seventh Heaven and Diamond Dolls, told the committee: “We are not making a decision based on morals, we are all perfectly entitled to have those but that is not something to factor into your decision-making today, it is on the application of the law.”
He said the clubs were seeking consent to carry on trading after the council had decided it was willing to allow existing facilities to continue operating. “My submission today is that there are no grounds for you to refuse the application,” Mr MacIver added.
Ms Hay said the partnership’s objections are “not moral, they are based on discrimination and inequality”.
The representative for Platinum Lace said: “They take the business seriously and they welcome this regulation. What they hope will happen is it will ensure there is a consistency of good practice across this area.”
Glasgow’s licensing committee, which consisted of councillors Jim Kavanagh, Hanif Raja, Eunis Jassemi, Alex Wilson, Zen Ghani and Thomas Kerr, decided to award the licences for the full three-year period. Clubs will have to apply for new licences at the end of this period.