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Spearmint Rhino Lap-dancers mount Downing Street protest

Lap-dancers are visiting Downing Street today in a bid to block plans to class them as part of the sex industry.

Two workers from the club chain Spearmint Rhino are representing several companies as they take a petition to Number 10 to protest at the proposals made by a backbench Labour MP.

Roberta Blackman-Woods, [pictured] who represents Durham, wants to see the clubs reclassified as “sex encounter establishments”, which would make it easier for local councils to refuse licences.

Spearmint Rhino spokeswoman Elaine Reed said: “The workers within our industry are absolutely horrified that the government are trying to rebrand us as part of the sex industry.

“It’s quite clear we are not part of the sex industry, we never have been and we don’t intend to be.

“Our clubs are controlled, there’s no sexual activity going on.”

She said the club’s dancers would feel stigmatised if classified as sex workers.

“They will leave the industry because they don’t want that tag. The feeling is that if these changes are made the whole face of the industry will change, and not for the better.”

Susan Hall, head of environment services at Harrow council, said: “Councils have long wanted discretionary powers to close down the loophole that allows lap-dancing clubs to spring up in blatantly unsuitable areas.

“This is not about the right of lap-dancing clubs to exist – we don’t believe in being a nanny state and adults can make their own choices about entertainment.

“But councils should have more of a determining say if, for example, a club decides to open in a residential area.

“This can be a particular problem in London where you have residential areas with populations from different backgrounds and cultural traditions.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The government acknowledges that existing provisions to regulate lap-dancing clubs under the Licensing Act 2003 do not facilitate local communities’ objections based on the location or the number of lap-dancing clubs in one area.

“That is why, following a consultation with local authorities, the home secretary recently announced that the government would take the necessary steps to give a stronger say to local people over the establishment of lap-dancing clubs is their area.

“The majority of local authorities that responded to the government consultation suggested that they would like to see lap-dancing clubs placed under the category of sex encounter establishments, as defined under the Local Authorities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

“This would provide them with more scope to control the establishment of lap-dancing clubs and consider the objections of local communities that go wider than the four licensing objectives within the Licensing Act 2003.

“The government is considering various options, including this one, and intends to introduce legislation as soon as the parliamentary timetable allows.”

Women’s rights group the Fawcett Society will tomorrow urge companies to sign up to a new charter pledging to challenge the “sex object” culture at work, including entertaining clients at lap-dancing clubs.


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