By Angela Lovely
“Pole-dancing”, “lap-dancing”, “striptease” or “any entertainment of a like kind” says the licence application posted on the open door of Spearmint Rhino in Tottenham Court Road. I wonder what “any entertainment of a like kind” could be? It seems a very loose definition to appear on an application for a “new sex establishment licence”. But there it is on the door above head height so that our photographer has to angle his camera upwards to get a picture of it.
… on the far side of the road, three men, two tall, one thickset and short and wearing a black suit, are hurrying out of a lap-dancing club, the Spearmint Rhino, almost stumbling in their efforts not to run …
Ian McEwan used the club as a source for the dark side of life in his 2005 novel Saturday. Now the sexual entertainment venue is applying for a licence to allow it to open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.
When you first look at the licence application it seems like there has been a mistake. The opening times consist of a series of zeros, then you realise it shows the times in the 24-hour clock format. It seems it never intends to close. It will be a series of continual, continental shifts of female nudity, personal dances and alcohol consumption. And just in time for the Olympics this summer and nearby to where 5,000 media representatives from across the world will be staying. I’m sure they’ll be well looked after.
While the applicant is displaying the licence notice as required on the door of the premises, the licensing authority is not complying with its obligation to the public it is supposed to be serving.
Before Camden Council “streamlined” its licensing consultation process last year it used to send out letters of notification to people living nearby the premises where an application had been made. Now residents are supposed to be actively on the look out for licence applications by signing up to email alerts and use Camden’s licensing website.
But since the beginning of the year Camden’s licensing website has not had an up to date index of current licence applications. Those wanting to comment on a licensing application usually have only four weeks to do so but this year applications have often only appeared in the index a week before the cut off date for comments. Which means community groups who take a lead on responding to licence applications have to scramble to alert neighbours, discuss the application and get their comments in before the deadline. All this at a time when funding to voluntary organisations has been cut. The Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association which provides support for commenting on licensing applications received nothing from Camden’s voluntary and community sector investment and support programme for 2012-2015. In the last five years the Charlotte Street Association has commented on more than 100 licensing applications.
This week the licensing department issued an apology after a complaint was made because the Spearmint Rhino application did not appear on their licensing register. “Technical difficulties” were blamed and a copy of the Spearmint Rhino licence application was sent out by email which is how we got hold of it.
Last year the chief licensing officer at Camden police said farewell to the plod in Holborn and became the designated premises supervisor at Spearmint Rhino. I was a little surprised to see a familiar name on the current licence application. I should pay more attention to the Camden New Journal who reported on his new job.