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Lap Dancing Club Objections Win the Day

The owner of lap dancing club has failed in a judicial review challenge to Oxford City Council’s refusal to renew its sexual entertainment venue licence despite evidence that it had flourished without incident for a year and provided local employment, income and entertainment.

The council had in July 2011 granted a licence under schedule three of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 but had refused to renew it in September 2012 after receiving a number of objections from, amongst others, members of a nearby church and the Oxford Feminist Network.

An ice rink, which was viewed as a ‘family facility’, was 85 metres away; the venue was also close to many residential properties, student accommodation and colleges and a car and coach park where visitors arrive from all over the word to visit Oxford. Residents had complained of foul-mouthed banter on the part of those leaving the club in the early hours and some of the objections were expressed in ‘pure moral terms’.

The owner of the club had expressed intense frustration at the council’s decision.  He had invested substantial sums in establishing the venue, which made significant profits and employed more than 100 performers in any one week. It was submitted that the club had operated in the preceding 12 months perfectly property and without complaint from the local authority.

However, in dismissing the owner’s challenge, the High Court rejected his plea that there had been apparent bias on the part of a member of the council’s licensing committee who had made noise objections in respect of a bar close to his home and whose comments about lap dancing clubs had been published in a local newspaper.

Noting the wide statutory discretion afforded to local authorities in licensing matters, the Court found that, when read as a whole, the council’s decision letter included intelligible and adequate justifications for refusing to renew the venue’s licence and the owner could have no complaint about the sufficiency of the reasons given.