A recent surge in the number of lap-dancing clubs has been caused by a licensing loophole that places them in the same category as cafes and karaoke bars, a new report claims.
The report, entitled ‘A Growing Tide: Local Authorities Restricted by Inadequate Licensing Laws’ is published by campaign group Object.
It says that the number of lap-dancing clubs in England and Wales has increased to 300 since the Licensing Act 2003 which came into force in November 2005.
The Act limited the power of local authorities over the licensing of these clubs, the report explains.
The clubs are now licensed in the same category as karaoke clubs, cafes and pubs, making them more difficult for councils to monitor.
The report says that the proliferation of lap-dancing clubs in recent years is leading to the wider acceptance of the sex industry.
It also highlights research linking the use of lap-dancing clubs to the demand for prostitution, which in turn, it says, is a driving factor in the exploitation of trafficked women.
The report calls for changes that would force lap-dancing clubs to apply for a ‘Sex Encounter Establishment’ licence, which would place them in the same category as sex shops and allow authorities to scrutinise and regulate the clubs more strictly.
A statement on the group’s website says: “Research shows that lap dancing is part of the commercial sex industry. However lap dancing clubs are licensed like cafes.”
It continues: “Clubs typically operate in such as way as to encourage the expectation and demand for sexual services. Women living and working near clubs face increased levels of sexual harassment.
“Lap dancing clubs are a form of commercial sexual exploitation and reinforce the increased sexual objectification of women.”
A spokesman for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Gerry Sutcliffe MP, said he felt the Licensing Act was adequate to control lap-dancing clubs in some cases. However, he said he would raise the issue with the Home Office.