Cheltenham Borough Council
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Agenda item

Application for a variation of a Sexual Entertainment Venue licence

Minutes:

Officer introduction

The Licensing Team Leader told Members that the current SEV at the Two Pigs will expire early in 2020, and that the scope of this application relates only to a variation – additional dates to coincide with race meetings in October, November and December.  There have been two objections, as set out in the report, but no comment from the Chief of Police.  Mandatory and discretionary grounds for refusal are detailed in the report at Paragraphs 4.4 and 4.5, and Members should also be mindful of their public sector equality duty and the effect of granting this application on the protected group as set out in 2010.

 

Questions to officer

In response to Members’ questions, the Licensing Team Leader confirmed that:

-       The application is in line with previous applications from this applicant for sexual entertainment at this venue.  It is used as a SEV at most major race events.

-       Police and Council licensing officers inspect the venue once or twice a night during race events and, apart from some minor issues, no comments or concerns have been raised;

-       The venue is inspected every six months or so, outside the SEV dates when operating as a normal pub

-       No sexual assaults or incidents attributable to Two Pigs customers have been recorded by the police.

 

The applicant had no questions for the Licensing Team Leader at this point. 

 

The representative of GRASAC asked what the link is between sporting events and sexual entertainment in Cheltenham; this doesn’t occur in other cities.  The Licensing Team Leader stated that it dates back to when the Blue Rooms operated as a permanent SEV in Cheltenham.  In 2011, a statutory exemption allowed premises to put on sexual entertainment once a month without a licence.  There is nothing the Council can do about it, but if premises want more than one night a month, as in the case of the Two Pigs, they need to apply for a licence.

 

Applicant’s address

The applicant’s solicitor confirmed the additional dates and times requested:  Friday 25th and Saturday 26th October; Friday 15th, Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th November; and Friday 13th and Saturday 14th December, all 8.00pm to 5.00am.   The Licensing Team Leader confirmed that these are the dates on the application form.   

 

The solicitor said the licence has been held since January 2017; when it was originally applied for, a number of objections were raised but none have been raised since then.  As stated by the Licensing Team Leader, there have been no issues or objections from the police, and only very minor incidents have occurred which have been fully resolved to the satisfaction of the police and local authority.  The applicant respects the local area and actively participates in the Cheltenham NightSafe scheme, which is linked with the police and aims to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

 

The application has been properly advertised, and copies of the public notice are available.

 

Regarding the objections raised, Members will be fully aware of the mandatory and discretionary grounds for refusal; objections on moral grounds or values are not relevant and should not be taken into consideration.  The objection from GRASAC concerning a serious sexual assault during race week cannot be attributed to the applicant and should be disregarded.

 

The Two Pigs is a professionally-run establishment, which strives to comply with its licensing commitment, and work with police to ensure that individuals abide by the rules and do not cause a nuisance in the local area.  Welfare of performers is paramount, and they are transported to and from the venue, provided with meals and refreshment, and secure changing rooms.  There are no webcams or chat services. 

 

Concerning the objection from a local resident, the police and local authority work to safeguard the streets, and have raised no objection to the licence at the Two Pigs.  If there were any anti-social behaviour or disorder issues, the police would have been present at the meeting or made a comment; this contradicts and outweighs the resident’s objection.  The comments about the 24-hour exemption are a matter for judicial review at the High Court.

 

This is a straightforward application: the applicant has had an excellent record for 2.5 years; the police have no objections; public objections have no merit in law; all licensing regulations are observed. 

 

Questions to applicant

In response to Members’ questions, the applicant’s solicitor confirmed that:

-       Employees are not coerced or trafficked; they apply online, and once approved, need to confirm their status, address, and right to work in the country;

-       There is racing on Sunday 17th November;

-       Regarding the barriers placed on the highway, conditions are attached to the original licence and the local authority has not raised any objections to suggest that these are have been breached;

-       Fliers handed out during raceweek offer a free courtesy bus; the local authority has not raised the issue, so the assumption is that they do not breach the conditions;

-       Additional bar staff are provided through Griffin Promotions; individuals who are contracted to work at the venue are fully briefed as to what the event will be and what they will be expected to do;

-       Performers come from all across the country, and usually stay in hotels in Cheltenham or Gloucester; they are dropped off at their hotels or their vehicles.

 

Regarding the barriers, the Licensing Team Leader said that Condition 4 relates to the display of banners in the immediate vicinity, and the issue is that venues use barriers during busy raceweek events to manage crowd control.  Officers have had conversations with the police and the operators, who state the barriers are necessary to manage queues, crime, disorder, flashpoints.  The barriers used here display the Eroticats logo - nothing to suggest lap dancing, but to some extent the imagery could be interpreted as a breach.  This could be tightened up under a policy review.

 

Regarding the fliers, Condition 6 concerns advertising the premises and also needs tightening up; the fliers advertise the courtesy bus, so technically are not in breach.  With the imagery and barriers, the applicant is circumnavigating the rules; this will be picked up.   He confirmed that, if acting under the 24-hour exemption, barriers are permitted but leafleting requires a separate permit.  

 

The Licensing Team Leader reminded the Committee that the application is a variation of an existing licence and the Committee’s decision making remit is limited to the variation applied for and cannot extend to a full review of the SEV already issued.

 

The representative from GRASAC asked what the Council is doing generally about the safety and safeguarding of residents in the area.  The courtesy bus has been seen near schools, and Two Pigs workers and ex-workers have told GRASAC that they have been dismissed during raceweek.  The applicant said this is not the case, and suggested it is not relevant to the application.

 

Objector’s address

Ms Stewartsaid GRASAC works in tandem with Council members and staff and the police, to protect the safety of women – posters were produced this year – yet this seems to contradict the work which other Council departments are doing.  She questioned again the link between sporting entertainment and the sex industry, and while recognising that the law has been in place since the 1980s, and that the Committee is not here to discuss morals, she felt that additional dates on the licence, in this sensitive area near St Mary’s, St Matthew’s and St Gregory’s, could be refused as unsuitable, based on the clientele.

 

Questions to objector

Members agreed that GRASAC does very good and valuable work, but reminded the objector that tonight they are considering only the amendment to an existing consent; they can only apply the law and policy as it stands, and while they can change policy in future, they cannot change the law.  It was also pointed out that any link between sport and sexual entertainments has nothing to do with the application, and that, as stated earlier, Cheltenham has just won a Purple Flag for its management of the night-time economy.

 

In response to questions from Members, MsStewart stated that:

-       Although the serious sexual assault during raceweek cannot be directly linked to the Two Pigs, women’s safety during raceweek in general is a concern.  The police say nothing was reported to them, but GRASAC has clients who say they tried to report incidents to the police and were told they should expect it in raceweek.  GRASAC holds a lot of client information about safety or lack of it during raceweek;

-       The courtesy bus has been seen near Cheltenham Ladies College during the evening – not near any primary schools – but many local residents find it offensive;

-       By increasing the dates or not, Councillors can influence the ongoing link between race events and the sex industry, which is not prevalent elsewhere;

-       She recognises that, if the licence variation is refused tonight, sexual entertainment will continue elsewhere in the town, without the protection for performers provided by the large number of conditions on the Two Pigs licence.  However, she is interested in the safety of all women in the town

 

The applicant had no questions for Ms Stewart.

 

Member debate

A member asked for clarification as to whether this is an amendment or a new application.  There are no more race meetings left on the original application, but three between now and January.  The Licensing Team Leader confirmed that the Two Pigs has a licence to January 2020, with certain dates permitted; tonight’s application is just about adding three more sets of dates.  Matters relevant to the discretionary grounds for refusal of the venue can be raised when the licence is renewed later this year.

 

A member said there may or may not be a link between sex and sport, but this is not peculiar to Cheltenham and cannot be blamed on the Two Pigs.  There are problems in town and in society which need to be dealt with, but this amendment to an existing consent won’t make a difference.  The issue of SEVs won’t go away, and in granting a SEV licence, the venue can be better controlled by licensing officers and the police, making it better for performers and for audiences.  If it goes underground, there would be no control.

 

A member suggested the link between racing and sexual entertainment arose from the link between racing and gambling, and a lot of people with money to burn.  She agrees that, as a woman, it can be very unpleasant walking through town during raceweek, but this cannot be blamed on one SEV.  She was shocked to hear that women have had trouble reporting incidents to the police, but that is not relevant to this licence.  The Committee has very limited ability to refuse:  the licence is already granted; this is an amendment; the locality was considered acceptable when the licence was granted, and this is not the place to object to that.  It is up to people to choose whether they go to SEVs; doing so does not make them guilty of assault, and at least with a licence, conditions are in place to protect workers and audience.

 

A member suggested that the correlation between sport and SEVs could just be that a lot more people need entertaining and part of this is drinking and attending lap-dancing clubs.  Under the 24-hour exemption, any pub or club can put on unregulated sexual entertainment, and it is better to contain the dates by licence.  He agreed with other Members that any attacks or anti-social behaviour from drunken people cannot be attributed to a single establishment.

 

A member also admires the work done by GRASAC, and appreciates their concerns, but repeated that the Council is limited by national legislation – lap-dancing is legal, and people who do not like it should talk to their MP about changing the law; otherwise the Council will always be constrained in the way it can act.  He agreed with other Members that it is better to have some control over premises, and felt that the Two Pigs is a good-quality venue. 

 

He was concerned, however, about the barriers and fliers, and felt that the will of the Committee has been legally and cleverly circumvented.  Fliers cause a lot of litter and barriers block the highway.   He recalled that the main issue when the original licence was granted was preventing any advertisements being posted on the wall outside, and feels uncomfortable doing nothing about the barriers and leaflets.

 

A member said racing brings in a lot more people than it used to, and this is reflected in the venues.  He said that barriers are normal for crowd control, but questioned why those used at the Two Pigs need to be branded.  To keep things in perspective, however, he reminded Members that there are more issues and complaints about taxi drivers than SEVs during raceweek.

 

A member said that the police would have raised concerns if they had any, and that the Two Pigs is inspected every night during race events.  He agreed that sexual entertainment is not linked so much to sport as to large numbers of people with lots of money to spend, and pointed out that many large cities have permanent SEVs so do not need additional venues during sporting events. He reminded Members that the important thing is that the performers and clients are safe, and the fact that people are offended by it is not grounds for refusal – discretionary grounds were considered when the application was originally considered.  Moral objections are not a reason to refuse, and the Council itself has allowed the Dream Boys to perform at the Town Hall using the 24-hour exemption. 

 

He said that concerns about the safety of the town are more about the number of people in raceweek. There are objectionable people in any large town on a Friday night, but at least the licensed venue will have more door staff, regulation and inspections because of its high profile; the general consent is that the Two Pigs operates within its licence, and if performers were coerced, it would be evident.  The objections raised are not material, and issues regarding the 24-hour exemption need to be raised with Parliament.  He wants Cheltenham to be safe for everyone and the Council has done all it can.  The Two Pigs cannot be held responsible for anti-social behaviour, only for its immediate vicinity.  There is no rational reason to refuse.

 

A member noted that the application is being determined under CBC’s existing licence policy, and asked when the reviewed policy would come into force.  The Licensing Team Leader said this will involve scrutiny work, a 2-3 month consultation, cabinet approval and then implementation – it will not happen before Christmas.   He added that leafleting is subject to separate licensing permission, and needed a permit under the Environmental Protection Act, with a separate set of conditions (leafleters are not allowed to force their leaflets on people and are required to clear up any mess).  The Two Pigs is no worse than any other night club in this respect.  He also said that obstruction of the highway is also covered by separate legislation.

 

The applicant had no further comment.

 

Vote

Grant the application as applied for:  5 in support - unanimous

 

 

Supporting documents: