Hackney Councils woeful nil policy on sex establishments

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Exotic dancers hold protest against Hackney Council outside Hackney Town Hall in Dec 2010 Photo © YD photo agency

In going after adult establishments, Hackney Council have gone for easy prey. The sex industry does not have the lobby power or open support, other industries  such as gambling have …

On Wednesday 12 January, the licensing Committee voted to approve a new ‘nil’ policy on ‘sex’ establishments. If approved by full council on 26 January, it means no new adult oriented businesses will be granted a license.

While residents of the borough spoke up against Hackney Council’s proposed ‘nil policy towards adult establishments within the borough, it appears the council already had their minds made up, so the decision to go ahead with putting forward a nil policy to full council was not a surprise to me.

Last weeks results from the boroughs recent consultation on what they term ‘sex establishments’ reveal that over 2700 people responded to the consultation, with 2658 responding online. Borough wide, 67 per cent were against a ‘nil’ policy to ‘sex’ entertainment venues, 68 per cent for for sex cinemas, 78 per cent for sex shops.

Further analysis show respondents living in the E1, E2 & EC2 post codes, which are closest to the existing adult establishments, reveal similar results with 75, 86 and 76 per cent respectively. But even this sort of encouraging response against the new policy, was not enough to sway Hackney Council.

An amended version of the original document  was drawn up on Wednesday, to protect the existing adult establishments that can demonstrate their compliance to what the council consider “longstanding and well run”.  In other words  they had a bone thrown at them in the form of a midway compromise, which was explained in part:

“Given the level of opposition to the ‘nil’ policy from some respondents and in recognition of the existing establishments that have operated in Haggerston for a considerable period of time, it is suggested that these existing premises be treated as a special exception to the ‘nil’ in policy in Haggerston only.

“Such exceptional circumstances will only be applied to the existing establishments if they can demonstrate that their premises is longstanding, well-run, and does not generate significant levels of concern among the community and/or statutory authorities.”

Not so much a win for the already established businesses, but a definite win win for Hackney Council, who can pull the rug at any time, evident in the iron clad Draft Sex Establishment Policy which leaves no room for an appeal once refused. It also means no other adult businesses can replace any of the existing businesses.

Hackney residents who oppose adult establishments in the area had the backing of feminist movements such as the Fawcett Society and a third wave feminist group called Object who have been very vocal about everything from beauty pageants to lap dancing. In fact some groups  and a few feminist bloggers have tried to ‘clean up the streets of Hackney’ by going after men who wolf whistled or made passes at women. Some even went as far as posting photos of men who had made passes at them.

Hackney isn’t alone in the clamping down of what they like to refer to as “Sex Establishments”. Hammersmith & Fulham has already adopted a nil policy with Islington and others expected do the same. Westminster who has 27 adult establishments (the most in London) have no plans to change their policy. They site cracking down on illegal sex establishments as their priority.

In going after adult establishments, Hackney Council have gone for easy prey. The sex industry does not have the lobby power or open support other industries such as gambling has, and with 65 book making shops in Hackney, some feel this has more of a negative effect on residents in the borough.

But buried in this debate, sans the visual effects of long slim limbs wrapped around a pole, is Expectations. The lone discreet adult shop in the borough of Hackney,  is a long established business located on Great Eastern Rd that has been catering to the gay community for over 2 decades. Some feel adult shops should not be included in the ‘nil’ policy, including local councillor Rick Muir, who wasn’t aware that adult shops were included in the ‘nil’ policy. I’m not sure if that’s a reflection on how attentive to details or how bright some councillors are.

So now the council have flexed their power on licensed legal sex businesses, I wonder how Hackney Council will tackle the dozens of of illegal brothels in Hackney.  While I have no problems with sex workers plying their trade,  I prefer that it is in a safe environment, where women are treated fairly and are protected.  Unfortunately that’s not the case in Hackney or anywhere in London, and when brothels are robbed and in some cases the women raped, it goes unreported in many instances.

This is an example of what goes on in London on a regular basis. Thankfully the assailants (who were from Hackney) were successfully prosecuted.

Hackney council placing such stringent and repressive laws on commercial adult pleasure is wrong and could lead to an underground ‘industry’ eventually.

About Remi

Remi Hackney Hive founder, publisher and contributor. Hackneyite and all round Girl Friday, who couldn't wait to leave Hackney and London behind her. After hitching her wagon in California, Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana for 18 years, with a brief spell in Mexico, the prodigal daughter returned happy to put an unconventional and risky past behind her. She is owned by her two dogs Deffer(a Jack Russell & Darcy a Jack Russell/Pomeranian mix) and runs a London based pet sitting business. The big smoke is home for the moment, but she desperately yearns wide open spaces, where she hopes to call home in the near future.

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2 Responses to "Hackney Councils woeful nil policy on sex establishments"

  1. nwhitfield  16/01/2011 at 1:21 pm

    Leaving aside the issue of the clubs, for a moment, the sex shop clause really does seem most peculiar.

    Given that there is only one in the borough, it seems pretty hard to believe that those who drew up the policy weren’t aware of the nature of the place. There aren’t even any windows at Expectations; it’s in the basement, and all you’ll see is a grey painted lobby at ground level – none of the tacky window displays found in Soho, for example. Zero chance of a child saying “Mummy, what’s that thing in the window?”

    So, I really do find it hard to imagine how the presence of the shop could in any way intimidate, distress or cause any safety and public order issues.

    It looks like nothing much more than a pointless attack on a gay business that happens to sell fetish-related material. And, really, I don’t see how that fits with some of Hackney council’s claims to respect the diversity of the borough and the people who live and work there.

    In the case of Expectations, more so than the clubs – which obviously have a much higher profile – you really do have to wonder exactly what agenda is being pushed here. Has someone with an anti-gay or anti-fetish agenda decided to tack a little crusade of their own on to the clubs?

    It will be interesting to see if Islington does something similar and includes shops in their rules; St Alban’s Place, just off Upper St, is home to Regulation, a similar sort of store to Expectations, while Holloway Road is where you’ll find Fettered Pleasures. Were both Hackney and Islington to succeed in implementing a nil policy that includes sex shops, that would see all three of London’s major gay fetish-related businesses forced out at a stroke.

  2. Remi
    Remi Makinde  20/01/2011 at 11:34 am

    Nigel, thanks for allerting me to Belle de Jour’s (aka Brooke Magnanti) re-analysis of the pitiful report on the impact of adult establishments in Camden and sexual assualts.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/47185652/Green-Paper-Camden-Lilith-rape-stats

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