NEWQUAY and St Austell MP Stephen Gilbert yesterday urged Home Office minister Norman Baker to address a legal loophole that allows unlicensed sexual entertainment.
Currently, lap dancing clubs must be licensed and adhere to strict conditions, including having highly trained staff, CCTV coverage and enforcing clear no-touching rules.
But under the Policing and Crime Act 2009 an exemption exists that allows one-off shows to be held without the need for a Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) licence.
Some clubs, including Salt in Newquay, have exploited the loophole in SEV legislation, holding large events on a monthly or less frequent basis.
Locals have expressed concern because applications for SEV licences are open to objection by communities, but the exemption does not require communities or even the authorities to be consulted.
Mr Gilbert, who has led a successful campaign to close down badly run lap dancing clubs in Newquay, said: “It’s important that those who perform in these venues and those who frequent them are protected from potentially serious criminal allegations and assaults.
“It seems clear to me that if we expect permanent lap dancing clubs to offer safeguards then those venues that put on lap dancing on an infrequent basis should also have to follow the same rules. That’s fair for the businesses concerned but, crucially, it’s also safer for everyone involved.”
He has been backed by police superintendent for East Cornwall, John Green, who said: “We are pleased that Mr Gilbert has taken steps to address the inconsistencies in this area of licensing.
“The broad partnership in Newquay (Newquay Safe) welcomes the opportunity to work alongside others to ensure the safety and enjoyment of all those who work in and visit local licensed premises.”
The only strip club currently in operation in Newquay is Wild Cherry, on Beach Road as both Halos and Divas had their licences withdrawn following breaches of conditions.
A licence application for a gentleman’s club called The Attic was refused in March last year following fierce opposition from protestors, including equality campaigner Tracy Earnshaw.
She said: “Stephen Gilbert has consistently supported the campaign to use legislation to address the proliferation of sexual entertainment venues in Newquay and it is encouraging that the Minister is looking into the matter.”
Mr Gilbert added: “When I was selected as a Parliamentary candidate in 2007 Newquay had five lap dance clubs and I worked closely with local residents and others to challenge bad practice. Now there is only one in the town.
“Whatever your view on sexual entertainment, it is vital that the performers and patrons are safeguarded. That is why I am calling on the Government to close the loophole that allows unregulated lap dancing and I am delighted that the Minister is looking at what can be done.”