Agenda item



The Licensing Officer, Phil Cooper, introduced the report regarding an application made by Red Apple Associates Limited for a sexual entertainment venue (SEV) licence at the premises known as the Two Pigs in Church Street, Cheltenham.  The proposed dates and times for providing the entertainment coincided with racing at Cheltenham racecourse on 11 days, these being 2 days at the October meet, 3 days at The Open in November, 2 days at the December meet, with the licence from 8pm to 4 am on these 3 occasions, and for the 4 days at the Festival in March, with the licence from 5pm to 5am.


The Appendices A to D of the report included a copy of the application, plans of the internal layout of the premises and a location map of the premises.  Appendix E showed the central shopping area.  Copies of the Eroticats’ house rules and crime and incident data for the last 12 months relating to the vicinity of the Two Pigs had also been circulated.


The Officer stated that the premises were located within the council’s designated area to be suitable for the consideration of sexual entertainment venue licences, provided that the premises were not in sensitive locations or near properties used for sensitive purposes.  He continued that during the statutory consultation process comments were received from Gloucestershire Constabulary which were set out in the background papers.  These included a number of recommended conditions, one of which was to delay the start time for sexual entertainment during the March Festival to 6pm rather than 5pm.  In addition to these, 58 objections were received from other people, which were also contained in the background papers.  The grounds for objections included the character of relevant locality and the proximity of properties of a sensitive or religious nature.


The Officer advised members that the application must be decided on its own merits and that the only grounds for a refusal of a sexual entertainment licence were set out in 5.4 and 5.5 of the report.  On consideration of all the relevant matters, members needed to decide whether to grant the application as applied for; to grant the application subject to additional terms, conditions or restrictions; or to refuse the application.


A member requested that the statutory legal exemption for sexual entertainment be explained.  The Officer confirmed that since 2010 under new legislation, any licensed premises can provide sexual entertainment up to 11 occasions a year, for up to 24 hours on each occasion and with a calendar month in between each occasion, without a sexual entertainment venue licence or having to inform or get permission from the council.  The Officer confirmed that the Two Pigs had done this in the past on a number of occasions and had always informed the council, although not obliged to, and no complaints had been received.   To further clarify in response to another question, a Temporary Events Notice (TENs) covered the sale of alcohol and provision of relevant entertainment such as the performance of dance as in a nightclub for one day only with timing restrictions based on the alcohol licence provision.


Members were also reminded that as mentioned in the report, the Government has made it lawful to operate sex establishments and they were a legitimate part of the retail and leisure industries and that moral objections were not grounds for refusal.   In reply to a question, members were informed that nearby retail shops closed at 6pm, the children’s library was open until 7 pm on alternate days and 5.30pm on other days, The Wilson closed at 5.15 or 7.45 on Thursdays and in The Brewery pubs and restaurants could be open until midnight. 


It was confirmed the premises fell within the central shopping area of the town where no limit was set on the number of SEVs and which allowed SEVs in this area to be considered providing those premises were not near properties with sensitive uses or in sensitive locations.  As these premises were situated near a church, shops and restaurants used by families and a children’s library, members were advised to consider the relevant locality and everything around it as a whole. 


In reply to a question about the previous sexual entertainment premises, Fantasy, and whether it would be using its licence for the racing festival in March, the Officer stated that its SEV licence was due to be renewed before the Festival and as yet no application had been received, although there was still time.  It was however pointed out that Fantasy was no longer operating and its alcohol licence had also been suspended.


The Officer confirmed to members that it was easier to monitor and control premises with a SEV licence, rather than under the statutory exemption whereby sexual entertainment could move from one venue to another each night.  A SEV can have conditions imposed on it and be more robust and regulated, whereas in the other scenario there are no conditions only a code of conduct.  However the Officer pointed out that if the SEV licence was granted for this venue, other establishments could still apply for exemption, but the Two Pigs could not.


The Chair invited Mr Roger Bishop, Solicitor for the applicant to speak in support of the applicant.   Also present was Mr Steven Burrows of Red Apple Associates, which traded as Eroticats, Mr Nicholas Binding, the Licensed Premises holder of the Two Pigs and Ruby Stephens, the ‘house mother’ who would look after the performers.


Mr Bishop reiterated to members that a licence for only 11 days was being asked for and stressed that the Police had no objections, subject to some conditions which they were happy to accept including the change of time.  He pointed out Eroticats had regularly used the Two Pigs under temporary notices / exemptions and there had been no problems or complaints.  He stated that Mr Burrows had managed premises successfully for 14 years, he had held a personal licence since 2004, was a Designated Premises Supervisor and was SIA security registered and would be at the venue on the days concerned and Mr Binding had been the licence holder for 10 years.  Mr Bishop accepted that although the premises were within the designated shopping area that there were sensitive locations nearby, but stressed it was only 11 days and that the church would be closed during the hours requested.   He informed members of an application that was granted by Swansea council for a full licence for a strip club that was also next to a church.  Mr Bishop re-emphasised to members the mandatory or discretionary grounds for refusal and reported that the rules of the club had been enhanced, especially in respect to the house mother.  Mr Bishop advised that Fantasy was being offered for a new lease and the chances of it re-applying for a SEV licence were virtually nil, so there would be no other sexual entertainment venue in town.  He purported to how many people racing attracted to the town and that a well-run establishment of this nature with stringent conditions would assist the authorities.  He said that the report was balanced and well written.


In reply to questions from members, the Solicitor or applicant replied as follows:-

·         Mr Burrows was not the Designated Premises Supervisor for the Two Pigs, but had been involved with the Two Pigs for just over 5 years in connection with Red Apple Associates.

·         In the day time the Two Pigs was a pub and table top gaming centre.  On Fridays and Saturdays only it was a night club, open from 8 or 10pm until 6am.  The Two Pigs had a good reputation and zero tolerance to under-age drinking.

·         Standard identification of intoxication of any sort was carried out and if any workers were found to be intoxicated they would be stopped from working.

·         No cash was allowed to exchange between performers and clients, only tokens were used.

·         There was an enclosed outside courtyard where the performers could smoke or vape, which was not visible from the street and performers were not scantily clad outside, this was in the rules.

·         The changing / rest rooms for the performers would be cleared out, seating provided and lockers installed, with no public access.  The applicant would be happy for Officers to re-visit and inspect the area.

o   The Officer advised that the Council, Police and Fire services would inspect whilst the premises was operating as a SEV and not necessarily beforehand.

·         With regard to wheelchair access, the Two Pigs was restricted in what it could do as it was a Grade 2 listed building.  However they often had disabled customers and staff assisted them.


Many members were concerned and asked about the welfare of the performers with assurance that they weren’t being coerced into taking part or used for prostitution.  The applicant stated a number of measures that would be in place:-

·         Performers were employed directly and recruitment checks carried out.

·         The pre-registration process for the performers required submitting their name, phone number, email and residing addresses, drivers licence and passport.

·         Performers could only leave with the consent of the House Mother, stating where they were going and what for – rule 25 of the House Rules.  If they exceeded their break, ultimately they could be dismissed from working.

·         Performers were not to liaise with customers or exchange addresses or telephone numbers (Rule 14).  Any breach of contract would result in dismissal.

·         No physical contact was allowed between performer and customer.

·         Booth walkers were employed to control and monitor both inside and outside the premises.

·         At the end of the shift, a minibus was provided to take the girls home or to hotels where they were staying.  However Mr Burrows stated it was beyond their remit, that if after the girls finished work, they chose to go elsewhere.

·         In reply to a question about the demographics of a performer, the applicant stated that they were from all walks of life, some had degrees, were professionals or parents and the main motivation was to earn money.


Members were also concerned about publicity and advertising and that if, as stated, the windows would be blacked out so no one could see in, how would customers be attracted and know it was a SEV.  The applicant replied that at present an advertising banner did not exist, but that he would be happy to work within prescribed guidelines and have guidance on signage.  The Officer stated that it was a standard condition not to have images suggesting that dancing took place.  The applicant was happy with just the word Eroticats as he felt the brand name was strong enough to attract customers. He continued that the signage would only be up when trading and not during the day.  A member questioned the distribution of leaflets and was informed that with a SEV licence this was not permissible, whereas under the exemption it was. It was also confirmed that advertising on the Eroticats’ van could be controlled under a SEV.


In reply to a final question from a member, the Applicant confirmed that the Two Pigs had operated under the statutory exemption for the last 5 years and that if the SEV licence was not granted, they would do so again this year.


The Chair invited the Reverend Canon Dr Tudor Griffiths, Rector of Cheltenham Minster, to speak.  He commenced by confirming that he was aware that objections based on moral issues were not valid and that his objection was on the grounds of relevant location.   He stated that the Minster was the oldest building in the town and only a few paces away from the Two Pigs.  The church was a highly religious building which attracted many visitors, had a good congregation on Sundays and ministered weddings, funerals, carol singing services, evening prayers and outdoor activities all at various times of the day, which involved families and children. The church was also open in the evenings.  He said that they were working together with the developers of Cheltenham House and the West End Partnership to enhance the area around the church and the alleyways to improve the image of the area and to make it more welcoming.   He said the application should be refused as it was inappropriate to have a sexual entertainment venue in such close proximity to a church and sacred grounds and that the SEV was in a sensitive location and complied with the reasons for a refusal as set out in 5.10 of the report, sections c, b and d. 


In reply to questions from members, Rev Griffiths appreciated the dilemma the committee faced of either granting a SEV with conditions or refusing, with the risk of lap dancing taking place across the town at various venues, but he felt granting the SEV concentrated all the activity in one area over a set period of time.    The applicant’s Solicitor felt his whole objection was based on moral grounds, but Rev Griffiths questioned what was or was not perceived as moral.  Rev Griffiths reiterated that the application was inappropriate for this locality and a ground for refusal was the proximity of the premises to a significant religious building in the town frequented by families and children.


The Chair invited Councillor Chris Mason, ward member for Lansdown the ward in which the Two Pigs is situated, to address the committee.  Councillor Mason spoke against the application citing that the venue was a stone’s throw from an iconic building and that the church was not just used on Sundays or during the daytime, resulting in incompatibility of usage; that the premises was close to McDonalds restaurant and the Brewery complex all frequented by young people and families and that the children’s library was nearby and would be open. He stated that the church grounds were used for recreational purposes and that various groups were working together to improve the area, make it more attractive, to dispel the stigma of antisocial behaviour in this area and to try and make the area safer after dark which conflicted with a nearby SEV.  Cllr Mason stated his was mindful of residents’ objections, the main one being proximity to a place of worship and felt that if the committee granted the licence it would contravene what the community wanted to do to this area.


Again in reply to the question would Cllr Mason prefer the Two Pigs to have this kind of entertainment under the 24 hour exemption which was much less regulated and could move from place to place around the town, or to have a licence that could be regulated, he replied that a SEV licence should not be granted so it was not concentrated in a definite area.  With regard to antisocial behaviour in this area, Mr Bishop pointed out that the Police had not objected and that there was no evidence to show that a SEV in this area would increase antisocial behaviour.


In summing up, the Applicant’s Solicitor, reminded members that the application should be determined on its own merits and felt that the main objections were of a moral issue.  He stated that these were professional people running a well regulated venue and that the Police would be better able to monitor it if all at one venue.  He referred to the 29 conditions that the police had put forward and confirmed that they were happy to accept these conditions.  He felt that with the conditions it would help improve the locality and stressed that they were only talking about 11 days out of 365.  He referred members to points 8.4, 8.5 and 8.6 of the report and trusted they would grant the licence with the conditions and that they were happy to accept these.


The Chair opened up the application for debate at which point Cllr Wilkinson left the meeting room for a comfort break and on return was informed he would no longer be allowed to vote.


The following comments were made by Members:


·         One member felt it was very clear that the location near to a church was inappropriate and felt it did not enhance Cheltenham and thus would not be supporting the application.

·         It was noted that the safety of the girls appeared reasonable with registered performers, the presence of a house mother and 10-12 security men.

·         It was noted that even if the licence was not granted this would not prevent sexual entertainment taking place in the town;

·         It was in a central area, all in one place and thus easier for enforcement. 

·         It was recognised that unsavoury behaviour was inevitable during race week but if the licence was granted the council had the opportunity to introduce tougher conditions to further mitigate any harm which could be caused by the activity.

·         Reference was made to paragraph 10 of Appendix 1 to the SEV Policy which stated that no person under the age of 18 should be permitted on the premises and anyone appearing to be under 21 should be asked for identification. The Member proposed that the Challenge 25 protocol be a condition to the licence. This would mitigate harm to those under age accessing the premises.

·         Reference was also made to paragraph 21 of the Appendix and it was proposed that this should also include no exchange of other electronic forms of communication e.g. email addresses, social media details.

·         Members acknowledged the proximity of the proposed venue to the Minster and that the timings for sexual entertainment should be considered. It was suggested that consideration be given to modifying the SEV licensing hours to 8pm-4am for all the race meeting.   Another member felt 9pm would be more suitable and another 10pm.  In any case a later start time would be better in order to prevent harm to children and families who used the area and this would not be possible to impose under the standard exemption.   A member felt it important that the night time and daytime economy should be kept separate.  Others were in agreement with the police suggestion of 6pm for the March race meeting.

·         Members acknowledged that an SEV licence would better control the activities and minimise harm than under an exemption; in any case the activities would take place behind closed doors and windows which were blacked out. Having one entrance to the premises did enable better control.

·         A member recognised that if the hours were too restrictive the venue would gain more from operating under the exemption.

·         A member suggested that a barrier could be erected along the alleyway between the venue and the church to prevent seeing from one area to another.  It was suggested the church could do this if so wished.

·         It was acknowledged that there would in any case be visitors to the pub in the alleyway who had been drinking, so a later start time of the licence would not make any difference.  However one member pointed out that those wishing to visit the venue should not be kept waiting. In any case people under the influence of alcohol after a day at the races could cause equal concern.


There being no further debate the Chair moved to vote on 8.8 c of the report, being to refuse the application.


Upon a vote it was 1 for, 7 against


Having agreed to grant the application, various conditions were put to the vote:


·         To amend the SEV hours for the Festival in March from 5pm to 6pm as recommended by the Police.

Upon a vote it was 6 for, 1 against, 1 abstention


·         To amend licensing condition 10, from under the age of 21, to under the age of 25

Upon a vote it was 3 for, 4 against, 1 abstention


·         To add to condition 21, that performers do not exchange any electronic form of communication e.g. email addresses or social media details, with customers

Upon a vote it was 6 for, 1 against, 1 abstention


·         That the Applicant to agree with officers details of signage

Upon a vote it was 7 for, 0 against, 1 abstention


·         To agree the 29 conditions as specified by Gloucestershire Constabulary

Upon a vote it was 7 for, 0 against, 1 abstention


RESOLVED THAT a Sexual Entertainment Venue Licence for the premises known as The Two Pigs be granted subject to the conditions as outlined above.

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