Portsmouth lap dancing club in Southsea faces fierce opposition as it bids for renewed licence

CAMPAIGNERS are challenging council chiefs over a lapdancing club’s bid to keep running.

By Ben Fishwick
Thursday, 18th February 2021, 4:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 18th February 2021, 8:39 pm

Elegance strip club’s licence has run out and its owner Paul Ojla is bidding for a renewal from Portsmouth City Council.

But the venue, in Granada Road, Southsea, has come up against fierce opposition.

Shonagh Dillon, chief executive at campaigning domestic abuse charity Aurora New Dawn, said ‘there is no doubt’ that objectification of women is directly linked to sexual and domestic violence.

Paul Ojla who owns the Elegance lapdancing club in Southsea. Picture: Ian Hargreaves ( 120861-4)

In a strongly-worded objection she has asked Portsmouth City Council to enforce its ‘nil cap’ on sexual entertainment venues.

The council brought in the cap in 2012 but did not apply it to existing venues - Elegance and Wiggle in Surrey Street in Landport.

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In her submission to the council, Shonagh said granting the licence would see the council breaching equality law.

She said: ‘This puts the council at risk of legal challenge by those who object to its strip clubs.

‘Please abide by your own policy and the wishes of your tax payers – the voters whom you are supposed to represent, particularly the most vulnerable.

‘Stop re-licensing this strip club, particularly now when it is not open, cannot open for some considerable time and whose primary workers (lap dancers) have not been entitled to furlough all this time (as ‘self employed’ workers).

‘Close this club and support its former lap dancers into safe, alternative employment and training.’

Concerns have also been raised at Elegance being near a high number of shared houses, particularly in Waverley Road, and near vulnerable adults.

Shonagh added: ‘Women have told you at previous hearings that they are harassed outside it, which clearly affects their ability to use the area comfortably, if at all.’

Owner Mr Ojla, who runs the firm behind Elegance, Wellhot Limited, said it was an annual renewal and the venue had seen no problems.

He said: ‘It should be granted because there’s been no issues, no problems – the only way it can be opposed is if we've caused any issues and that place has never caused any issues.

‘There’s never been anything to do with the premises, we’ve never had any violence.

‘You get more violence in a Costa Coffee than in Elegance.

‘The majority of the public couldn’t care less.

‘Although people make it seem as though lap dancing clubs are bad, nobody even knows they’re there.’

Mr Ojla said ‘there’s no exploitation’ as none of the 12 nightly dancers are forced to work.

‘The women actually have more authority than anybody else,’ he said.

Mr Ojla was recently fined £6,000 in civil enforcement action over not having a shared housing licence from Portsmouth City Council for the 12-bed former pub, the Cabmans Rest, in Plymouth Street, Somers Town.

He told The News it was a brand new development, and had nothing to do with Elegance.

A city council licensing committee is set to meet in March to decide the application. The previous licence continues while the renewal is being considered.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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