A ROW has erupted over a tough new policy which could lead to all of Portsmouth’s lap dancing clubs being closed down.
Businessman Paul Ojla – who runs Wiggle, in Surrey Street, and Elegance, in Granada Road – said he couldn’t believe his eyes when he read the proposal being put forward by the city council.
He believes the plans could put him out of business – but some politicians and women’s groups welcomed the crackdown on venues which they said were ‘demeaning to women’.
According the draft policy there will be ‘no place within the City of Portsmouth’ where it is appropriate for sex establishments to trade; this includes lap dancing clubs, sex shops and sex cinemas.
If the proposal is adopted following a six-week consultation then Mr Ojla fears as well as banning any further clubs opening in the city, the existing three will be forced to close and his 100 employees will be put out of work.
Mr Ojla said: ‘At first I didn’t take it seriously because I thought there was no way somebody could force anybody else out of business.
‘My licences are already reviewed every year and if I break the rules they could close me down.
‘But this policy says because Portsmouth is so densely populated, and you are always within three miles of a church or school, there is nowhere in the city that is suitable for us, which is taking it way too far.
‘We don’t get the trouble they have at other clubs in any shape or form.’
The issue split the council’s licensing committee, with several councillors claiming the policy was unfair and could lead to a the closure of law-abiding establishments that have done nothing wrong.
Conservative Cllr Lee Mason voted against the draft policy and said: ‘This is not a fair consultation because we are saying we should have none, regardless of what people think.
‘The whole thing is totally unfair. It is people forcing their Victorian morality on others and trying to create a new kind of puritan society.
‘I think the long-term aim of some Lib Dem councillors is to put all the clubs out of business.’
But the Lib Dem chairman of the council’s licensing committee, Cllr Les Stevens, said the existing clubs would not be forced to close down.
He said: ‘I see no reason to shut down what are now legitimate businesses. You just can’t do that sort of thing. I would never eat one of those doner kebabs, but that doesn’t mean I want to shut down all the places that sell them.
‘But we would prefer not to have any more sexual entertainment venues in the city, because we have decided that the ones we have are enough.’
Cllr Lynne Stagg said: ‘I wouldn’t have any of those places anywhere. Not because I’m a prude but because they are demeaning to women. It was the right decision to make.
‘But I do think we should leave the ones that are there already.’
The draft policy can be view in full at portsmouth.gov.uk/living/licensing.html and copies will also be available at the civic offices in Guildhall Square and at city libraries.
Debate over lap dancing clubs begins as consultation launched
AS PORTSMOUTH City Council seeks opinions on the future of the city’s lap dancing clubs, strong views have already been expressed both for and against.
A group on social networking site Facebook – called Save the Stripclubs of Portsmouth – has attracted nearly 1,000 members, while Solent Feminist Network spoke out in favour of the policy at the meeting.
Member of the network Charlie Dacke said she hopes when the current clubs have their licences reviewed they will be treated the same as if they were opening for the first time.
She said: ‘A number of women have reported that they do not feel safe or welcome in the vicinity of lap dancing clubs, and are therefore excluded from passing by and socialising at night in these locations. Lap dancing clubs feed into a culture which promotes a sexist and sometimes violent masculinity.’
But on Facebook Paul Knight posted: ‘Anyone that opposes licensed strip clubs has obviously not taken the time to get to know any of the girls who work in the industry or taken the time to find out what really goes on and how these clubs are run.’
And Kirsty Mitchell wrote: ‘It’s not particularly feminist to tell other women what jobs they can have.’
To share your views email firstname.lastname@example.org by April 12.