Romford lap dance club given red light

AN APPLICATION for Romford’s first strip club was given the thumbs down by the council yesterday (Thursday) partly over fears that it could turn the town centre into a red light district.

A unanimous decision of the licensing committee rejected the application on every ground, stating that it could increase the likelihood of prostitution and sexual assault, increase crime and disorder, was unsuitable in an area where children congregate at bus stops, and contravenes policy on refusing new drinking establishments.

The application was for premises above Bentley’s Bar, South Street, by its owners – father and son Keith and Robert Clark – to host lap and pole dancing.

During the hearing, the barrister speaking on behalf of the applicants, James Rankin, said that customers who visit lap dancing clubs don’t increase crime and disorder because they: “Don’t stand outside shouting about the fact that they’ve just been to a lap dancing club, they slink home to their wives. As opposed to someone who has been to a nightclub and spent all their money on drink.”

It was also said that there would be strict security staff on the doors and that girls working at the club would be escorted by staff to cab offices to get home safely.

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Cabinet members for community safety Geoffrey Starns and Andrew Curtin spoke against the application.

Cllr Curtin said: “I most strongly object – Romford has no tradition at all of this sort of establishment. We all remember when Hollywoods opened it was supposed to be marvellous, but we’re only just recovering from the effects of that.”

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Cllr Starns said: “My understanding is that if this gets the go-ahead there might be more interested parties who want to set up strip clubs.

“I think it’s inevitable that some of the members would expect services beyond what they are legally entitled to serve there.”

Police praised the owners’ willingness to co-operate with them, but recommended that the council shouldn’t approve the decision unless certain conditions were met – including that the premises should not be used for performances involving nudity.

Speaking after the decision, Cllr Curtin said: “It was a very thorough decision, the committee took their time and I’m glad they came to this conclusion.

“We want people to come to Romford for its libraries, its parks, its museum..., not for what this would have been.”

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