Anger over plans to extend Sheffield strip club licence

Spearmint Rhino.
Spearmint Rhino.

Plans to renew the licence of a lap dancing club has sparked protests with objectors claiming the venue is holding Sheffield back from becoming a vibrant forward-thinking city.

Councillors are considering today whether to grant Spearmint Rhino's application to renew its sexual entertainment venue licence - which would allow it to continue operating at its home of 15 years in Brown Street.

A total of 97 letters objection letters have been submitted on the grounds that the venue 'objectifies women' and is located in the wrong place in the heart of the city's 'cultural industries quarter.'

At a fiercely debated licensing committee meeting this morning, a number of protesters argued how the club should close as it is 'out of place' and situated close to the Showroom Cinema, Sheffield Hallam University buildings, the railway station and Site Gallery - all of which are used by thousands of visitors every day.

Sheffield Heeley MP Louise Haigh said the city will soon have an HS2 high speed rail station attracting thousands of visitors daily and it was "incongruent to have a high-profile strip club that goes against the vision for our city."

She added the layout of the building was wrong because many of Sheffield Hallam's technology buildings effectively have to "wrap around" the strip club.

Dr Judith Dodds said it is close to a bus route used by "school children, Freeman College students and those who attend Sheffield Hallam University."

She added: "Sheffield Council says it wishes to address gender equality but granting a licence would be incompatible and contradictory to this aim.

"Spearmint Rhino attracts men with a bad attitude towards women."

Councillor Dougles Johnson said: "A sex establishment venue contributes to the objectification of women."

Lisa Markham, a member of the Feminist Network, described the building as an 'underused, unpleasant and unhealthy space' in an area visited by many students and tourists.

Another objector, who asked not to be named, claimed there was evidence nationally that high numbers of sexual entertainment venues in cities led to an increase in sexual violence.

He said: "During my career I have seen the effects of sexual violence and rape on a daily basis. A woman told me she was raped by three men who she knew used to attend sexual entertainment venues."

There was no evidence to suggest these men had visited Spearmint Rhino.

Dr Tony Maltby said: "What kind of society do we want to promote? Sheffield should become a modern city that does want to have gender equality between the sexes."

However, there were also 17 letters in support. The town hall meeting is set to continue this afternoon with evidence from the bosses of Spearmint Rhino before councillors make a decision.

The application comes as the council is currently rethinking its sex establishment policy, and a key aspect is to limit the number of venues in the city to two. Spearmint Rhino and La Chambre swingers club in Attercliffe already have licences, so no more would be allowed under the proposed policy.