I have written to Licensing at Sheffield City Council setting out my objections to the renewal of the license for Spearmint Rhino in the city centre. If you'd like to read my full letter you can find it below.
I am writing with regards to the application for license renewal for Speartmint Rhino, 60 Brown Street, Sheffield, S1 2BS.
The Council has a legal duty under the Public Sector Equality Duty to to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities.
Sheffield City Council is known for going beyond the minimum requirements of its legal duties when it comes to promoting equality for women, with its support for the Women of Steel campaign, a gender-balanced Cabinet, strong female leadership, and a Women's Hub that is supported and facilitated by the Council to tackle sexual violence and sexual exploitation/sexploitation, amongst other issues. The city also has Purple Flag status for providing an “entertaining, safe and enjoyable night out," which will undoubtedly be of relevance and interest to female residents and tourists alike. The presence of a lapdancing club that sexual objectifies women is clearly counter to all of this.
Further to the issue of gender equality and sexism in light of the Public Sector Equality Duty, there are a number of grounds to object, and I support the submission by Zero Option which outlines these.
For the purpose of this objection, I have decided to focus on the following aspect of the discretionary grounds for refusing a license:
d) the grant or renewal of the licence would be inappropriate, having regard:
i) to the character of the relevant locality;
In a press release from Sheffield News Room on 13th February regarding the award of the Purple Flag Status for another year, Councillor Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Leisure at Sheffield City Council, said:
“It’s great to see Sheffield receiving this award, and our night-time entertainment offer being recognised on a national level.
“With our varied selection of bars and restaurants, as well as a thriving theatre district and huge array of cultural attractions, we in Sheffield really are leading the way when it comes to providing an eclectic mix of places to eat, drink, relax and have fun.
“I hope that Sheffield city centre will continue to go from strength to strength, with the imminent opening of the new Light leisure and entertainment complex and the creation of the New Retail Quarter.”
The City Centre as a whole is undergoing significant regeneration that includes the area in which Spearmint Rhino is present, also known as the Knowledge Gateway on which the Council recently undertook a consultation with the following description:
“This project seeks to transform the corridor running along the Lower Sheaf – Porter Valley, including the station to a similar high standard as the highly acclaimed Gold and Steel Routes in City Centre.
It will improve links between several key destinations and several potential development sites. For example links within and to the Cultural Industries Quarter, Digital Campus and Sheffield Hallam University and to the Railway Station. It will improve accessibility and safety as well as the environment in order to encourage new investment and jobs. Key locations such as Fitzalan Square and streets will be transformed as part of the initiative.
The project recognises that the station is Governments preferred location for an HS2 station which may be 10-15 years away. The station is a key gateway and this project seeks to improve the existing taxi queuing, movement of traffic and pedestrian access. This should all make this area, the corridor and indeed the City Centre much more attractive to inward investment.”
These examples are relevant in terms of the discretionary grounds for refusal based on the character of the relevant locality, and backed up by recent case law from the case of Thompson, R (On the Application Of) v Oxford City Council (2014) wherein it was held by the Court of Appeal that:
“In making that assessment, the sub-committee was permitted to have regard to an imminent development of which it was aware [developments of student housing], even if there could be no certainty that it would be completed and operational within the period of the licence.”
This is an area that has been going through a period of redevelopment and one that the Council intends for further development in the coming months and years. The City Centre Masterplan, Knowledge Gateway, plans for HS2 and aspirations for an international Tech Hub are all evidence of this and I was pleased to support the Council's preferred location for HS2 in the city centre, recognising that Sheffield will be at the centre of the Northern revival with the delivery of this kind of investment and infrastructure. Whilst we are still a number of years away until HS2 is built, I feel it is important and necessary to consider the location of an Sexual Entertainment Venue within the proximity of the intended station, and the message that a lapdancing club sends to potential investors, business people, and tourists that will inevitably increase with the building of the new station.
In addition, in my role as Shadow Minister for the Digital Economy, I was pleased to meet with the Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University to discuss plans for a Tech Hub on Brown Street, and Sheffield's role as a world leader in innovation and technology. Clearly a lapdancing club is not congruent with this vision and I am concerned about the implications for Sheffield's national and international reputation in terms of the digital economy when we have visitors to the intended Tech Hub.
Therefore, I would urge you to refuse the renewal of this license application and I look forward to hearing from you with confirmation of receipt of this objection.
Louise Haigh MP