Sheffield councillors renew Spearmint Rhino licence despite objections

Spearmint Rhino.
Spearmint Rhino.

Sheffield’s only lap dancing club Spearmint Rhino has had its licence extended despite protests that it is 'out of place' with the vibrant city centre.

Fierce debate raged at the Town Hall yesterday as opponents claimed strip clubs were linked to sexual violence, but the venue’s lawyer argued its presence in Brown Street made the streets safer.

After several hours of discussion, councillors on the licensing committee finally reached a decision late yesterday evening to extend the club's sexual entertainment venue licence for another year.

However the decision was made with three conditions, which mean the club cannot distribute leaflets advertising the venue and they must cover up the Spearmint Rhino sign when the club is closed. The authority's licensing service will also carry out quarterly inspections.

A total of 97 letters objection letters were submitted on the grounds that the venue 'objectifies women'. Objectors also said it is located in the wrong place in the heart of the city's 'cultural industries quarter' alongside 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’

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

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.”

The council received 17 letters supporting the application.

Philip Kolvin QC, representing Spearmint Rhino, argued that having a lit club with security staff on its doors made the street safer at night.

He said: "Being there, it provides security in a street which otherwise lacks it and could feel a little bit threatening."

Mr Kolvin added that while the club was ‘not everyone’s cup of tea’, claims that it was endangering women were borne out of ‘preconceptions’ and not ‘reality’.

He said the club, which opens at 10pm each night, employs around 53 people, including 40 dancers who can earn up to £580 a night working there.

The decision 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.