News / 10 January, 2011

Sex establishments consultation: majority say no to Hackney Council’s ‘nil’ policy

Only one in three respondents support the Town Hall’s proposal to ban strip clubs, sex shops and sex cinemas across the borough

Still from Hands Off, a film by Winstan Whitter

The results of Hackney Council’s consultation on the licensing of sex establishments have revealed the majority of respondents are opposed to the proposed ‘nil’ policy.

More than 2,700 people answered the questionnaire, which ran from September 20 to December 13 last year.

Of those, 68 per cent were against a ‘nil’ policy for sex cinemas, 78 per cent for sex shops and 67 per cent for sex entertainment venues.

These were echoed by the views of respondents living close to Hackney’s five sex establishments (E1, E2 and EC2 postcodes) where the results were 75 per cent, 83 per cent and 76 per cent respectively.

The report, which is to be reviewed by the licensing committee on 12 January before being put to full council on 26 January, also states that: “While the proposed ‘nil’ policy may result in no further premises being opened, the policy does not require existing premises to close.”

Comments against the ‘nil’ policy included freedom of choice, opposition to the council making moral judgements, legal venues minimising the risk of illegal venues and causing unemployment by closing existing venues.

Expectations on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch was also mentioned by several respondent as providing valuable safe sex and health advice to the gay community.

Comments in support of the ‘nil’ policy included worries about the objectification of women, residents feeling unsafe walking past the venues, the venues attracting and generating prostitution and general concern about immorality and seediness.

Other consistent themes in the comments were that the council had already made up its mind prior to the consultation and that this policy is part of a wider strategy by the council to clean Hackney up before the 2012 Olympic Games.

Having considered the responses to the consultation, the council is proposing to go ahead with the ‘nil’ policy across the whole borough.

The council qualifies its stance by stating that “given the level of opposition to the ‘nil’ policy from some respondents and in recognition of the existing establishments that have operated in Haggerston for a considerable period of time it is suggested that these existing premises be treated as a special exception to the ‘nil’ in policy in Haggerston only.

“Such exceptional circumstances will only be applied to the existing establishments if they can demonstrate that their premises islongstanding, well-run, and does not generate significant levels of concern among the community and/or statutory authorities.”

Pauline Bristow, partner and licensee of the White Horse on Shoreditch High Street, said she is cautiously optimistic about the news:  “We are quite pleased with the results of the survey, but we do feel that we still still be impeded in our renewal application. We feel that Hackney Council will impose some onerous conditions.

“We felt that doing the survey might have promoted the voice of people who are against gentleman’s venues and encouraged them to say ‘we don’t want them here’. I think the wording of the policy is very, very wrong, to call us sex establishments implies that sex is going on behind our doors. It should be exotic dancing venues, it is very misleading.

“People know they have to behave themselves in these venues, they are not allowed to get away with what they are in normal clubs. Police reports show less problems from our venues than ordinary ones, so what is the problem? We are hopeful, but we are not holding our breath,” she said.

Following the adoption of the powers afforded by the Policing and Crime Act 2009 (‘the 2009 Act’) the Council regulates Sex Establishments under Schedule 3 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (‘the 1982 Act’), as amended by the 2009 Act.

The council adopted the amended powers on 21st July 2010, which consequently took effect on 15 September 2010.

By re-adopting the 1982 Act, as amended the council continues to regulate sex establishments as they did previously. The 1982 Act allows the council to introduce a limit as to the number of sex establishments in its locality, which can be ‘nil’ should the Council deem it appropriate. The amended powers also allow for different limits to be set for the different types of sex establishments, should the council wish to do so.


Hands Off: women speak out over Hackney strip clubs

Strippers and vicar unite to fight cleanup campaign

Hackney TUC condemns council’s proposed ‘nil’ policy on sex establishments

Sex establishments: the other side

Sex club clampdown could backfire

/ 10 January, 2011
  • Bill

    Having “considered the policy” the council has decided to ignore the public consultation and do what it wanted anyway. In thev report on the responses it says that those opposed to the “nil” policy were very cynical as to what difference the public consultation would make and now we can see how right they were. Never mind the people who live in Hackney the council will do excactly as it sees fit. Welcome to democracy North Korean style !

  • Pipeshaft

    The ruling Labour group will ignore the views of the majority and push ahead with its totalitarian policies in the People’s Republic of Hackney. Remember this will help push up property prices comrades

  • Tony N

    Local Government working on behalf of the majority… ok I have stopped laughing. Seriously in comparison to Fulham with practically no one voting or being bothered they had a massive response with 2 thirds voting against the nil policy. On what grounds can the nil policy be justified if the population voted against it in a consultation?

    In the longer run what other rules will be pushed through without respecting the wishes of those who put them in power? Councillors, remember this was a massive response in comparison to the normal exercises in empowering the people. It would be morally corrupt not to respect the wishes of those who voted you in.

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Much depends on whether or not the party whip is invoked (no pun intended!): if councillors are given a free vote, there’s still a reasonable chance that the ‘nil’ proposal will be rejected, in line with the views of the general public.

  • Hackney resident

    The majority of residents support the council on this, particularly re the lap dancing clubs (ie. we want to ban them). The reason the ‘consultation’ suggests otherwise, is that some of the venues have got all their customers to vote against the policy en masse…but most of those customers are not local residents!
    If some of you on here are so keen on strip clubs, go and open one at the end of the street where you live.

  • Sarah

    Hackney resident: get your facts straight, there are no lap dancing clubs in Hackney.

  • Another Hackney Resident

    Hackney Resident, do not presume to speak for the majority of local residents. I completed the consultation questionnaire & I am a local resident. I do not need to build a club at the end of my street – there is one there already! It is not a problem. Hackney council should act according to the results of the consultation – they have no mandate for the ‘nil’ policy

  • Hackney resident

    7 – I am not presuming anything. I understand venues were actively encouraging all their punters to fill in the survey, which could be done anonymously and many times over by the same person. I’m not so against the sex shops, but I am against the pole-dancing clubs as they attract stag groups who are a big part of the night-time problems which residents have to put up with.

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Hackney Resident, face the facts: stag and hen parties are going to keep visiting Shoreditch, regardless of whether or not there are striptease venues, due to the number of bars and clubs in the area. At least the striptease pubs (NOT lapdance clubs) are better at spotting and dealing with potential troublemakers than the ‘regular’ bars.

    And if you’re going to criticise the manner in which the consultation execise was carried out, perhaps you’d like to enlighten the rest of with the figures from YOUR study, which allegedly supports the notion that Hackney residents are in favour of the ‘nil’ proposal…

  • Tony N

    Hackney Resident, Object asked their supporters to vote for the NIL policy, guess that doesn’t count? I am more worried about the drunks in Dalston on a saturday night coming out of the normal bars and pubs. As to the anti social aspect I think the council should be working with the police to clear the Lordship Park area. Finally we are being told that the council are going to have to make cuts because of the budget and here we have them reducing income which will hit our services. Somehow I think we have more to worry about with that than a small handful of bars that are well run and bring money into the borough.

  • Hackney resident

    10 – the area is changing, moving away from bars and clubs. There are now plenty of other aspects (residential, retail, small offices) which will bring far more into the council’s coffers in the end. It will also mean the police don’t have to waste half their time sorting out visiting binge-drinkers, when as you say there are plenty of other issues they have to deal with.

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Hackney Residents, we’re still waiting for those stats which say that the majority of Hackney residents support the ‘nil’ policy…please don’t tell me you were simply making that stuff up all along! 😉

    As for the area changing: yes, in manner which means MORE drinking establishments (including those with late licences) are opening. I’d love to know what the causal link between striptease and binge-drinking is; or – let me guess – that was just another non-sequitur, designed to mislead people!

  • Tony N

    Hackney Resident from the Article “People know they have to behave themselves in these venues, they are not allowed to get away with what they are in normal clubs. Police reports show less problems from our venues than ordinary ones, so what is the problem?” So the venues are causing less trouble than the normal bars. Bars are always going to be there and Dalston on a Saturday night at throwing out time would not be my favourite place to be, So these stag groups that are causing trouble??? Sorry struggling to see that if the police aren’t come out to deal with it.

    So the worry about prostitution coming into the borough around these bars. The council uses this argument and yet when asked to help with the issues in the lordship park area say oh no nothing to do with us it is a police problem. So firstly they believe made up information but aren’t willing to help deal with REAL and EXISTING issues already in the borough.

    Forcing a nil policy through after it has been voted against is denying the mandate of the people. The council wanted e-democracy and yet when the result did not live up to their expectations they decide to ignore the will of the people as they know better. What happens next time when other issues are voted on? If we are asked where money should be spent and it doesn’t fall the way the council want it to? Having proved they won’t take the views of the people into account any form of e-democracy in the borough becomes a pointless waste of money, Just what the borough needs when it is facing cuts as it is.

  • Hackney Resident

    12 – the consultation was flawed, as respondents could return multiple forms (online or by post) without stating their name or address. In the run-up to the deadline, at least one venue owner was getting all their customers to object (even though most of them do not live in Hackney), and another apparently returned 100 forms himself! Reliable sources on both, by the way, and gleaned because I live in Hackney (unlike, it would seem, many of the sex clubs’ supporters).
    As for more bars – not any more, at least in Shoreditch. No new bar/club licences round there are being issued (official council policy, and strongly supported by locals), and recently several late licence and planning applications (from existing venues) have been refused.The reality is that most of the area’s bars and clubs set up there 10/15 years ago when not much else was around, but now other regeneration is taking hold (residential, retail, office etc), the bars are having their wings clipped and this trend will continue (thank goodness). Getting rid of strip joints is a useful part of this trend.

    13 – if the trend I describe continues, police time will be freed up to deal with other things such as the Lordship Park issue which you mention.

    Best regards.

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Hackney Resident, ONCE AGAIN you criticise the Council’s consultation method, without providing ANY evidence to support your claim that, “The majority of residents support the council on [the ‘nil’ proposal]” or give us any concrete information as to who your ‘reliable sources’ might be. Are you actually determined to embarass yourself on a public forum, or do you seriously believe that the majority of people reading the above article are gullible enough to take your remarks at face value?

  • Tony N

    So where are the facts relating to the police call outs to the venues? I have drunk in all 4 at one time or another and have yet to see any issues in any of them. I have found that a saturday night out in so called normal bars sees a lot more aggression. Certainly if the police thought there was an issue with the Whitehorse they would of stopped the extension for late license for Blush. So obviously the police dont see an issue as the license was given in the last couple of years. So the police dont see an issue as if it required an increase in policing it would have been stopped.

    As for more bars fair enough 4 seems to be enough to give people a level of choice. So not saying that there needs to be more, but to apply a Nil Policy means at a later date the council may try to close those they have accepted will continue to operate at present.

    Finally I am sure both sides got people to vote. Don’t forget OBJECT etc would have got their people to vote and I wonder how many of them live in the borough? As to your reliable sources you do know that if you tried to vote a second time on the web as soon as you got to the starting page it came back with “Thank you for your vote” ?

  • Hackney Resident

    15 – To repeat my point – the consultation could be returned anoymously without the respondent giving their name and address, and venues were openly encouraging their customers to object en masse…one venue was handing out the forms, and one venue owner sent off 100 forms himself! Given the sensitivities involved, I am not prepared to reveal my sources, but I can assure you they are credible. I therefore think the more interesting analysis would be of votes from those who declared their names and genuine local addresses (and only once each!). Despite 16’s fair point re OBJECT (whose members may also not live in the area), I think it’s equally fair to say that an analysis on that basis (looking at those with names and genuine local addresses only) would produce a very different result. Certainly a straw poll amongst my neighbours revealed c. 80% were either completely or partially in favour of the ban (partially was usually in favour of banning the strip joints but perhaps keeping existing (but only existing) sex shops).

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Hackney Resident, the problem is precisely that you DO repeat the same old point, over and over again, ad nauseum! And do you really expect people to take your informal straw poll of your neighbours more seriously than the official consultation exercise carried out by Hackney Council, particularly when the questions are being asked by someone as obviously biased as yourself? That sounds more like CAMPAIGNING than the neutral gathering of data.

    As far as I’m concerned, your opinions have zero credibility and probably only reflect those of a small, but noisy, minority of people in the borough.

  • Hackney resident

    18 – the problem, my friend, is that you are the one ignoring the very obvious flaw in the consultation – this is not a ‘biased’ view one way or the other, but merely a statement of how the consultation was carried out, plus statements of what actually happened in terms of venues hijacking the consultation and getting their customers to swamp it. The reason they did this, is because they are only too aware that the views I am expressing are held by a large majority (not minority) of local residents, who are indeed becoming increasingly vocal on the issue. As I mentioned earlier, things are at last starting to change, and removing the strip joints is another step in the right direction. If you like them so much, I’m sure they would be delighted to move to a street near you!
    Over and out.

  • Tony N

    Resident, I assume you are in the Haggerston ward? Your vocal friends, why did they not vote earlier?

    Anyway the key point which you keep missing is in the future how sure will you be as a resident that any consultation that the public take part in will be treated properly by the council when they are ignoring this consultation? Whatever the result you would expect the council to follow it, it can always be voted on in a couple of years time. We live in an era of e-democracy and whatever the rights and wrongs of this particular vote the council should be acting on the result as they chose the methodology.

  • Hackney resident

    20 – I agree that the council should listen to consultations of local residents, if the responses are all from local residents! This was not the case here – given the issues I have already described, it seems obvious that many responses (yes, including the ‘OBJECT’ ones people voting for the new policy), probably the majority of them, were from non-residents who swamped the process. Obviously a name and address requirement could still be abused (by people entering false details), but it would be far more likely to be dominated by people who are genuinely local residents, and would therefore have more credibility.
    Anyway I must go, but it’s been interesting to chat.

  • hackney resident did you attend the meeting at shoreditch town hall in 1990,when all locals went to complain to their so called councillors about all the newly opened late night venues and the anti-social behaviour they were causing?Browns had already been opened for nine years and wasnt a problem then and isnt now.The meetings I have attended lately I have been told that the area is changing,this by councillors.You say that local residents are now uniting to voice their opinion on these issues.The Shoreditch panel which represents all the estates in the area,some 12-15000 residents isnt one of them.The council never consulted them or any of the T.A.s that make up the panel. They have told the council about this,the reason being that local girls from the estates will lose their jobs if the council get their way.

  • Hackney resident

    22 – whenever a bar or club applies for a licence renewal or extension, they always claim they are not part of the problem – I have lost count of the number of times I have heard this excuse! The reality is they ALL contribute to the problems to some extent, I would say sex clubs probably more than average as they attract stag groups. As for estate representation, I attend meetings regularly on estates, and I can assure you the vast majority of attendees (many of whom are TRA reps) agree with our stance – indeed, many of them are very annoyed that so much valuable police time is now spent dealing with the chaos in Shoreditch and Dalston on Fri/Sat nights, almost all of it caused by non hackney residents who are simply visiting the area to get drunk (or leer at strippers), rather than being available to deal with issues arising with people who actually live here. If the bars are reduced, and other activities increased instead (retail, small office, residential etc), there will be a much wider range of employment opportunities for local people, rather than the current dominance of low-paid, late-night work in bars and clubs.

  • hackney resident I suggest you ask the council for their own crime and anti-social behaviour figures to see where the problems for the police lie.You will then be able to go to one of your meetings possibly a C.A.P.meeting and make an official complaint about police hours and money being wasted and where i.e.which clubs are the problem.And being backed up by those figures you will have a pretty good arguement.

  • Tony N

    Hackney Resident interesting wording in your last statement, particularly the agree with our stance comment. Work for the council or a councillor?

    So you know how often the police are called out? Why did the police not object to the renewals of licenses previously if there really was such a terrible problem? Why was there an extension granted for the white horse? If there was a “real” problem rather than a perceived problem the police would be screaming about the venues but that hasn’t happened.

    As for the regeneration of the inner city, the current economic climate does not really support that unless the council is willing to cut business rates etc to attract new businesses into the borough. The concept of providing new work only works if the local community skill sets fit the influx of business needs or else workers will come in from other boroughs. No offence but those regeneration plans have fallen flat on their face before because of the skills issue. So where does all the money come from to retrain people and provide housing and council tax benefit whilst those people that need training take it? All I am seeing is a council looking for excuses that their brillant plan to get rid of 4 pubs and a sex shop failed miserably. Lets face it, if the pubs were any real trouble to the police the licenses would have been lost ages ago and the lets ask the public well it didnt work the way the council wanted so lets pretend we didn’t ask anyone and claim that everyone who voted was out of the borough multi voting as we the council screwed up big time.

    Sorry may be a little harsh above but to be honest your comments do sound like someone involved in this rather than just a resident and a little sour grapes is coming over.

    The stag groups thing is another tired line from Object. I have seen stag groups in strip pubs and to be honest they are better behaved/controlled by staff than they are in normal pubs and night clubs. It does seem that the same redundant arguments are trotted out again and again. I have a close friend who works for the met police in a borough with a strip venue and they get a lot more trouble per nightclub than they have with the strip pub.

  • Tony N,I did hear a councillor say she was against stag nights and the stripclubs,she was asked ‘shall will do away with weddings then?;she had no answer.It seems that their are two lots of figures and statistics in this borough,one to be used to push something through and the other to be used in an emergency.

  • Hackney resident

    24 & 25 – I have seen figures on various issues. I am not a councillor, but I am involved in local community issues and do know what I am talking about. It’s been nice chatting but I’m afraid I must go as I have a busy week ahead.

  • Tony N

    Well as you haven’t produce a single piece of proof so far guess that I will maintain my point of view. And interestingly apart from yourself everyone else seems to be against the nil policy.

  • Hackney Resident

    28 – if you want proof, go and look at the survey form, which you will see could be returned as I have described (anonymously and without name or address). Or you could read the above ‘Hackney Citizen’ article which suggests that, even in this flawed survey, 891 (33% of 2700) people were in favour of the policy to ban sex entertainment venues – I concede that non-resident anonymous respondents were probably voting for as well as against, but I suspect the number of non-residents voting against was far greater (than those voting for).
    Sorry but I really must go now.

  • Tony N

    I love the wording you suspect. I suspect that 90% of the for Nil Policy were Object voters as they put out a call to vote for the policy. I can no more fully back my claim than you can yours. So bottom line the vote took place and there was a result. As far as I remember we live in a democracy and as the council chose how the vote would happen they should respond to it by backing the majority of voters. Otherwise they should stop pretending to respect the wishes of the voters and say we will do what we want as we don’t care about public votes.

  • Hackney resident

    30…you ignore all the other points I make about the survey. I suspect you are a supporter of the bar/club lobby. However I have no more time to debate this! over and out.

  • The Great Smell Of Brute

    Hackney Resident, what’s the matter – don’t you enjoy having your bluff called?

    Re the survey: I refer you to my answer on a related thread. Goodnight!

  • Tony N

    GSoB I think you will find that HR has kept trying to prove the same point and everytime on any thread where it is proved that the point being made is either meaningless in the overall scheme or is a subjective rather than an objective view there has been this I am off. And then sneak back and try to make the same point.

    HR given that we accept your view is that the poll is inaccurate (thats your view not anyone elses) I am still struggling to find out why you are against the bars? We know from the fact they have kept their licenses over the years they are considered well run and not generating policing issues (the council have stated this in the revised policy). So forgetting the poll methodology why are you so against these bars?

  • Claire

    Hackney Resident has left almost identical comments on pretty much every website relating to the ni policy. They are either related to the council or have way too much time on their hands.

    One point Hackney Resident makes is that if the strip bars close then more businesses will spring up creating jobs for those who have been unemployed by the council’s undemocratic and regressive nil policy. Except you are forgetting that dancers at Browns earn between £500 and £1000 a week. There are no jobs that an unskilled, unqualified woman who might be studying, might have children, or have some other reason why they need flexible hours, can get that pays anything near what they can earn as a dancer. This is why they do it. Are you going to help out with the bills? Are you going to pay for their tuition fees, or put food in their children’s mouths, or pay their rent, or support their family back home in Brazil or Poland? Thought not.


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