Blackpool Council’s plans to cap the number of lap dancing clubs could put dancers in danger, it is claimed.
Controversial plans to cap the number of lap dancing clubs in Blackpool in a bid to make the resort more family friendly have moved a step closer to being given the green light
The plans were subject to heated debate at a meeting of Blackpool Council’s licensing committee which took place at the town hall on Tuesday evening (September 21).
The council says it is working towards a zero limit on the number of adult entertainment clubs – despite not planning to force the closure of any of the four existing venues.
Under the plans, the four existing sex entertainment businesses would be allowed to continue to operate within the legislation and licence conditions, on the proviso that if any of the four existing licences lapses or is revoked, they will not be renewed.
Now operators working in the industry in Blackpool have hit back with ‘grave concerns’.
Among objections submitted to the licensing committee as part of a prior consultation was that of Ashley Sayers, whose family has operated Eden One on the Promenade for 14 years.
Ashley said she had worked with over a thousand entertainers over that time and feared the plans would take away the safe working environment that had been built over the years.
Highlighting how the dancers included single mums, Masters degree students, law graduates and nurses, she said she feared the proposals would take away the town’s safe and regulated working environment by forcing the industry underground.
She said: “These girls range from single mums working to provide for their families, to career entertainers who have been in the industry longer than myself and used their income to invest in property and start their own business..
“The industry will be forced underground and the girls will be tempted, if not forced to work in places such as hotels for private bachelor partiers where their risk of sexual assault and financial exploitation would be alarmingly high.”
Senior Licensing Solicitor Sharon Davies told the licensing committee it should base its decision on Blackpool’s status as a ‘White Ribbon’ accredited authority and the fact it was being promoted as a family friendly town rather than on moral grounds.
She added: “You should not make a decision on moral grounds and you should not make a decision based on the fact that you don’t agree with this type of establishment because the situation is that it is a lawful activity and there is nothing illegal about this.”
However, serious fears for the dancers’ safety were voiced by Councillor Graham Baker, who said he had had second thoughts since January.
He said: “In January, I was in favour on the grounds of trying to establish Blackpool as a family venue. However, in view of the objections, it made me think again.
“You can’t look through the windows of these establishments and the children don’t see anything. There’s nothing obvious to children that there is this type of establishment.
“We are never going to get rid of this sort of establishment. It is likely to be driven underground where it is not licensed and the workers haven’t got the protections they have at the moment. I am thinking that our decision in January was flawed.”
But his concerns were dismissed by other councillors, who countered that no one was proposing to revoke existing licences but just make it harder for anyone else to come into the industry in Blackpool.
They were fully backed by Councillor Peter Hunter, who concluded: “This is a family town, and we don’t want this type of organisation in this town.
He added: “I would like to see these venues out of town.”
The majority of councillors dismissed fears that the local economy would be hard hit, with licensing committee chairman, Councillor Adrian Hutton saying most of the dancers did not come from Blackpool, adding : “We haven’t had hundreds and hundreds of letters from local residents to say we want to keep them.”
This sentiment was backed by Councillor Jo Farrell, who said: “We are not closing them, and we are not putting anyone out of a job.”
The committee voted ten to one to approve the policy and send it forward for approval to the council’s executive.
After the meeting, Councillor Hutton welcomed the move, adding: “It was a democratic decision. You still have the executive committee who will scrutinize it and make the final decision.”
Councillor Graham Baker who voted against the measures, said: “I don’t feel as comfortable as I did about it. I just think we should be giving it a bit more thought. I would not want to make them go underground then they lose the protection of the doorman.
“I am not comfortable with it – it needs more thought.”
The council’s executive is due to meet on October 11.