Dec 5, 2010
some campaigns bring with them unusual fellow travellers. this article originally appeared here.
by Rashid Razaq
A vicar is backing a campaign to keep open lapdancing clubs threatened by closure under licensing reforms.
The Rev Paul Turp of St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch has criticised Hackney council for attempting to “impose a moral code” on east Londonresidents with proposals which could outlaw erotic dancing venues, sex shops and adult cinemas.
Mr Turp, an inspiration for the BBCcomedy Rev starring Tom Hollander, has a parish which contains four long-established lapdancing bars — Browns, The White Horse, Rainbow Sports Bar and Ye Olde Axe as well as sex shop Expectations.
Hackney council is using legislation introduced this year reclassifying lapdancing clubs to propose a “nil policy”, which would ban new venues from opening and lead to existing clubs losing their licences when they come up for renewal. A public consultation period is due to finish on December 13, before the council’s licensing committee makes a decision in January.
Threatened venues say more than 400 jobs are at risk and have been joined by Mr Turp, residents and other local businesses to oppose the proposals. A protest is planned for outside Hackney Town Hall next Tuesday.
Mr Turp said that although he does not frequent the establishments, he believes they should be allowed to keep operating as they are well regulated and cause far fewer social problems than alcohol or drugs.
He said: “I would prefer if it didn’t happen, but Hackney council cannot impose a moral code on it citizens, it can only impose a criminal code. I’ve been here for 27 years and there have been no problems. They are not dodgy, back-street places where people are getting ripped off. They are well run and the council has done a good job at licensing them.”
Mr Turp said he is seeing 40 new people a month at the church’s drop-in centre. “There are much bigger social problems that destroy communities for the council to be concentrating on than lapdancing clubs,” he added.
Denise Chandler, 56, the owner of Browns, which has been going for 31 years, said: “We will fight the council all the way on this. It is not just the dancers whose livelihoods will go but the bar staff, doormen, the fast-food shops and cab drivers.”
Chris Kennedy, chairman of the council’s licensing committee, said he would like to hear from Hackney’s residents and businesses, but explained that the council was proposing a nil policy as it did not believe sex establishments “fit with the character of our town centres and neighbourhoods”.