Tower Hamlets puts out feelers for tougher laws on sex clubs

The move to ban sex clubs proliferating in London’s East End has come a step closer with public consultations on whether to bring in tougher regulations.

Tower Hamlets Council is putting out feelers to see if it should adopt new legal powers for venues such as strip-tease, lap-dancing and pole dancing clubs, under the 2009 Policing & Crime Act.

Venues providing sexual entertainment at present have licences for their premises, not where they are situated.

The local authority cannot refuse a license solely because of the number of similar establishments already operating or because it may be “an inappropriate location” such as near a school.

The new legislation gives town halls powers over location as well—but can only be adopted with public consent.

The controversy came to a head last year when protesters demanding sex venues be outlawed in Tower Hamlets to stop what they called “sexploitation” of women faced opposition from trade unions representing the women themselves.

The GMB and Equity unions mobilised a campaign to take the fight to Parliament.

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The women denied they were being exploited and complained they would lose their work if the eight East End venues were shut.

Stripper Clare Roderick said: “There will be 1,000 dancers thrown out of work in just the eight venues.

“It’s lucrative work for us—not to be confused with brothels.”

The strippers even held a public meeting in Bethnal Green to highlight their argument.

The issue also split councillors. Rania Khan, a member of Mayor Lutfur Rahman’s cabinet, said at the time: “It’s about residents having more say on whether these establishments should be in their neighbourhood.

“Strip clubs in some cases could be set up next to housing estates, schools or places of worship—that’s wrong.”

But Labour’s Shiria Khatun believed the new legislation was going too far.

She argued: “Rania Khan ought to visit these clubs before casting judgment and understand what it’s about—these strip clubs aren’t sex establishments.”

Residents groups, however, have protested that the clubs attract violence and anti-social behaviour late at night.

The public consultation runs until April 29, which includes an online opinion poll at: