The Leeds City Council licensing sub-committee met today to consider renewing the licences of the Liberte and Purple Door lap dancing clubs, both on York Place in the city centre.
Each licence expired on September 30, and the clubs requested permission for a further year of “sexual entertainment in the form of lap dancing”.
In addition to the licence extension, Purple Door wanted to extend its opening times until 6am on weekends and 5am on weekdays.
Each application attracted seven objections including charity Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds, and political group the Women’s Equality Party.
The opening hours for the Purple Door were currently 10pm-4am on Sunday-Thursday and 10pm-5am Friday and Saturday; the hours sought would see the venue open until 5am on Sunday-Thursday and until 6am on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
Sarah Smith, the lawyer working on behalf of the Purple Door, said: “I would remind you that York Place is made up primarily of offices and there are very few residential flats. The venue will be closed and patrons will be gone before office workers arrive.
“Operating an additional hour each day would not affect the character of the area any more than a workplace running from 9am-4pm or 5pm.”
However, after a decision was made by the committee, a Leeds City Council officer said: “If the committee allowed an extension in operating hours closer to the time that people were likely to travel to work, there may be an increased overlap in people leaving these premises and those travelling from local residential properties or those travelling to their place of work in and around York Place.
“The committee were therefore not minded to agree to the extensions sought.”
Speaking in favour of extending the licence for a year, Ms Smith, added: “The Purple Door is the longest-running sexual entertainment venue in Leeds, and has been running since 1998.
“There will be no changes to the premises. The girls are well-protected and the charging system is identical to Liberte.”
A resident who lived locally had told the committee that the only place she was able to park her car in the area was York Place and that she travels late at night.
She added: “It is quite intimidating to be there, on your own late at night with two (sexual entertainment venues) right next to your parking spaces, where all the smoking happens outside.
“It has been my experience on a number of occasions where the patrons of these venues have decided to offer their opinion on whether I would be suitable to dance in there or not, whether I might enjoy having some money from them to dance and various other things.”
She concluded that she did not know which of the two clubs the people were patrons of.
Responding, Ms Smith said: “Customers outside are monitored.”
She added the head of the club’s door staff confirmed to her: “We wouldn’t put up with any of that nonsense.”
The licence was renewed until September 30, 2019, but the request to extend opening hours was refused.
The committee also granted a year’s extension to the nearby Liberte club, also on York Place.
The lawyer representing Liberte, Gary Grant, said: “Lap dancing is not everyone’s cup of tea, but neither is horse racing, boxing, ballet or London-based lawyers – with the exception of the latter, that is not a reason to ban them unless they cause significant harm to others. That is one of the founding principles of the liberal democracy that we live in.
“It should be protected from the dictatorship of a majority or a vociferous minority, however well-intentioned they may be.
“You have renewed Liberte’s licence every year since 2012. The reason you have is because it is a highly professionally-run venue that does not exploit those that work there.”
He added Liberte didn’t charge any up-front fees for dancers in the venue, and confirmed the dancers keep 70 per cent of the money they earn.
He said: “Although various objectors claim to speak on behalf of the dancers, we have included letters from the dancers showing they are well-looked after and they are not exploited.
“The objections amount to seven – some are identical duplicates. Two are from organisations that have a principled stance against lap dancing. But seven objections out of a city of half a million people is not many.
“The venue doesn’t open until 10pm. So it’s not the sort of hours that vulnerable children are likely to be walking past this venue.”
On the location of the club in York Place, Mr Grant said: “There is almost nobody there. It is a quiet and wholly appropriate venue for a lap dancing club.”
A Women’s Equality Party representative told the meeting: “I want to refute the claim that no harm was done. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it doesn’t cause harm.
“Thirty per cent of crime around York Place that has taken place in the last year have been violent or sexual offences.
“The objectification is harmful to all women.”
The committee decided to grant the renewal of the licence. It will remain in place until midnight on September 30, 2019.
A council officer added: “The committee were sympathetic to the issues raised by the local resident had faced from patrons of the sexual entertainment venues on York Place, but the local resident was not able to identify which sexual entertainment venue those who had approached her had come from.
“The committee would hope that if such an issue was raise by local residents about customers approaching them unsolicited, they would take action.”