Portsmouth lap dancing club boss vows to fight controversial plans

DEFIANT Paul Ojla outside Elegance in Southsea, one of the lap dancing clubs he owns.  Picture: Ian Hargreaves (120861-5)
DEFIANT Paul Ojla outside Elegance in Southsea, one of the lap dancing clubs he owns. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (120861-5)
Picture: Google Maps

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THE owner of lap dancing clubs threatened with closure says he will take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights.

Businessman Paul Ojla, who runs Wiggle and Elegance, is angry about a draft policy put forward by Portsmouth City Council in the hope of cracking down on sexual entertainment venues such as clubs, sex shops and sex cinemas.

But women’s groups have hailed it as a bold move in the fight against discrimination.

The controversial scheme – which has been put out to consultation by the council’s licensing committee – states that nowhere in the city is suitable for lap dancing clubs.

If adopted the policy would cap the number of sex establishments allowed in Portsmouth at zero, but would allow the council to use its discretion to keep existing clubs open if it wanted.

Mr Ojla is not happy with council assurances that existing clubs will not have to close.

He said: ‘That can be changed at any time if this policy of a nil cap is brought into effect.

‘We will be fighting this policy all the way to the court of human rights if necessary.

‘The people put out of work by this are not just dancers, they are bartenders, door staff and managers. It is totally unfair.’

Shonagh Dillon, chief executive of Aurora New Dawn, a charity which supports victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence, said: ‘Lap dancing clubs are an antiquated method of objectifying women and they don’t have any place in a modern society.

‘There is a reason why people don’t take their partners to these places. Some women feel unsafe even walking past them.’

Becky Gardner is a member of the university’s women’s association and works as women’s officer for Portsmouth Students’ Union.

She said: ‘One in three of dancers in these clubs is a student and, having spoken to lots of them about what they are like, they sound oppressive and exploitative.

‘Just speaking for myself, I wish there was no demand for them.’

Chairman of the licensing committee Lib Dem councillor Les Stevens said he had no desire to see existing clubs shut down.