House of Commons Library

Lap dancing clubs: how are they licensed?

Published Monday, December 16, 2019

This Library Paper gives an overview of how lap dancing clubs are licensed.

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Lap dancing clubs in England and Wales

Section 27 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 reclassified lap dancing clubs as sexual entertainment venues and gave local authorities the power, if they adopted the legislation, to regulate such venues as sex establishments under Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

The vast majority of local authorities are believed to have adopted the legislation.

A sex establishment licence to operate a lap dancing club is granted by the local authority for one year. An application must then be made for its renewal.

Objecting to a licence

It is possible to object to an application for a new licence, or the renewal of an existing one. Objections must be made on the basis that, among other things, a lap dancing club would be “inappropriate” in regard to:

  • the character of the relevant locality; or
  • the use to which any premises in the vicinity are put; or
  • the layout, character or condition of the premises in respect of which the application is made.

A licence application can also be rejected if the local authority considers that the number of lap dancing clubs is equal to or exceeds the number that it considers appropriate for the “relevant locality”.

Home Office guidance (March 2010) states that local authorities should not consider objections that are based on "moral grounds/values".

Lap dancing clubs in Scotland

Section 76 of the Air Weapons and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2015 amended Part III of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 to introduce a discretionary licensing framework for lap dancing clubs. This came into force on 26 April 2019 and broadly mirrors the system introduced in England and Wales through the Policing and Crime Act 2009.

The Scottish Government has published guidance (March 2019) for local authorities.

Many councils are consulting on whether to adopt the new framework.

Commons Briefing papers SN04751

Author: John Woodhouse

Topic: Licensing

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