Hackney Council’s ‘nil’ sex policy approved by licensing committee

Still from Hands Off, a film by Winstan Whitter

Hackney Council’s licensing committee this evening voted to approve a new ‘nil’ policy on sex establishments. If approved by full council later this month (26 January) , it will mean that no new strip clubs or sex shops will be allowed to open in any of the borough’s 19 wards (localities). Following a protracted debate, an amended version of the originally-proposed policy was approved by a narrow majority of committee members.

The policy as originally drafted would have threatened Hackney’s five existing ‘sex establishments’.

Hackney currently has one licensed sex shop and four premises (strip clubs) that are “licensed to provide live performances or displays of nudity solely or mainly to sexually stimulate audience members.”

A public consultation on the proposed new measures showed that over two-thirds of respondents were against the complete ban on sex shops and clubs from the borough; the committee nevertheless approved the ‘nil’ policy, with amendments designed to protect establishments that are “longstanding” and “well run”.

This will mean that if any of the five existing premises closes, no new establishment can be expected to be allowed to take its place. If the council decides for whatever reason that one of the establishments is no longer “well run”, it can be closed down.

Commenting on the borough-wide policy which proposes to still allow the existing strip clubs and sex shop in Haggerston ward to continue trading, Cllr Brian Bell (vice-chair of the licensing committee) said: “If you go outside this room and say …[this]… is a ‘nil’ policy, they’d laugh at you.”

Councillors Brian Bell and Rick Muir said they did not think the proposed policy should include sex shops, the latter saying he had not realised that it does in fact include them.

Another of the dissenting committee members, Cllr Geoff Taylor, described the policy as ” not a ‘nil’ policy upfront but a ‘nil’ policy by stealth.”

“What is being hoped for by somebody – and I don’t know who it is – is that the clubs that we’re talking about will wither on the vine, and we will finish up with what the people of Hackney in the consultation have said they don’t want: a nil policy,” he said.

“Because once one closes, anything coming along cannot by definition be a long-standing club, therefore it can’t open…

“So as they close, they will stay closed – despite the fact that two thirds of residents said that wasn’t what they wanted to happen.  What was consulted on was either a ‘nil’ policy or no policy, and I don’t approve of the policy… and I don’t approve of the method.”

Cllr Emma Plouviez said that she thought that the proposed ‘nil’ policy is right: “When we had the application for a new establishment in the borough it did provoke more opposition than anything else,” she explained, “that’s where this policy came from, this policy wasn’t dreamed up by a bunch of mad, rabid feminists.”

Campaign group Object have been vociferous in their support of the ‘nil’ policy, while Hackney trade unionists have opposed it.

The policy that the licencing committee has approved will be voted on at a meeting of full council on Wednesday 26 January.


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

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

Let’s talk about sex, says Hackney Council