It seems that officers of Hackney council have been visiting the some of the strip pubs in that borough telling them that
they are going to close them down for no reason other than that they can under the Harperson laws.
London's strip pub scene is centred east of the City of London and much of it falls under the administration of the Borough of Hackney. Some of the pubs have been open for between 15 and 40 years.
Recently Hackney council invited residents to have their say about a nil policy being proposed for adult
entertainment in Hackney. In essence it means no more licenses will be granted nor will existing ones be renewed, when they come up for renewal.
According to Cllr Chris Kennedy: The Licensing Committee is proposing a 'nil' policy on licensed sex establishments as we do not believe they fit with the character of our town centres and neighbourhoods.
The consultation which began last month will end December 13th and will ask the Council to adopt the revised policy on January 26th.
Currently Hackney has a total of 5 adult establishments, all located on the southwestern tip of the borough bordering on the City of London financial centre.
Four of them offer strip tease and lap dancing, totally nude. They are long established and famed: The White Horse, The Rainbow Sports Bar both on Shoreditch High Street, Browns and Ye Olde Axe on Hackney Road. The fifth venue is a discreet
adult store – Expectations on Great Eastern Street that caters more to the gay community.
To the best of my knowledge none of them have ran afoul of vice laws such as prostitution, which would usually guarantee criminal prosecution, revocation of license and closure. So why is Hackney Council proposing a nil policy for adult
Pauline Briscoe owner of The White Horse on Shoreditch High Street says: If a nil policy is introduced, we will have to let go of our staff, who depend on us for a living. That will be more people claiming benefit. Our establishment has never
been a problem.
Briscoe, who closes her club, The White Horse, at midnight says her flat above the White Horse is next to a bus stop and she is awoken at 4 am when clubbers are pouring out of the night clubs. She said the noise and chaos can be quite
Regardless of who frequents lap dancing clubs, there are women who depend on the money they earn. One of them who spoke to Hackney Hive is a 21 year old Uni student said: This is worrying for me as I find I can fit dancing around my education
easier than other part time work. I also don't have to work as many hours as I would have to in a more tradition job, to make the money I do.
It is not clear that Hackney Council's nil policy is in line with changing trends in public opinion. A survey carried out as part of the 27 September Sunday Morning Live discussion on BBC1 showed overwhelming public support for
accepting prostitution, with 71% of the British public in favour and only 29% against.
This echoes a government funded Ipsos MORI poll in June 2008: 59% agreed that prostitution is a perfectly reasonable choice that women should be free to make.
In the Sunday Morning Live debate, Catherine Stephens of the International Union of Sex Workers (IUSW) called for policy that solves problems based on evidence and reality, rather than on ideology, dramatic individual cases and stereotypes.
She argued that stigmatisation of sex work plays a large part in violence and trafficking.
According to the IUSW the clients are not the problem; they cite evidence showing that the majority of robbery, abuse and physical or sexual violence experienced by sex workers comes from those who do not pay for sex. Many assailants express
hatred of sex workers and appear to feel their actions are legitimated by the social attitudes of abhorrence for commercial sex.
Stephens says, It's time to start treating women with respect and equality, regardless of their sexual behaviour. It's time to give people in the sex industry the same human rights as other citizens, so we can work together for safety, and call
the police without fear of arrest. It's time to decriminalise prostitution.