Chester lap-dancing club wins battle to stay open

Published date: 01 May 2014 |
Published by: Staff reporter
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CHESTER’S only lap-dancing club has won a High Court appeal against a council decision to take away its licence.

Platinum Lounge, on Bridge Street Row, had its licence for lap-dancing, pole-dancing and full nudity removed by Cheshire West and Chester Council’s licensing committee last September after the committee ruled the nightclub, which has been open since 2005, was too close to residential properties.

Yesterday, a High Court judge ruled Cheshire West and Chester Council violated its own constitution when it refused to renew the licence of a lap-dancing club in the city’s historic heart.

It has had its licence reinstated until a new renewal application is considered.

Club owners Bridgerow Ltd fought the decision at London’s High Court, pointing out that since the Platinum Lounge opened in 2005, there had been no licensing issues, no warnings, and not one single complaint from residents.

Yesterday, Mr Justice Stuart-Smith overturned the committee’s decision on the sole ground it was taken in breach of the council’s constitution.

He said it was clear the decision should have been taken by a three-member sub-committee, rather than the full committee of 15.

Upholding Bridgerow’s Judicial Review challenge, he said: “It is clear beyond argument that the constitution said and meant that Bridgerow’s renewal application should have been decided by a panel of three members, drawn from the full committee on a politically proportionate basis.

“Equally clearly, that is not what happened.

“The decision of September 17, 2013 must be quashed because of the serious procedural irregularity which led to it being taken by the wrong persons.”

The judge said some locals, in particular the Whitefriars Residents Association, had been “vocal in their opposition” to the club.

And, in refusing to renew the licence, the committee had said the club’s location was “detrimental to the age, extent, rarity and archaeological importance” of the area and the “iconic and unique townscape of the city”.

The reasons given by the committee – while they “could have been fuller and could have been more clearly expressed” – were “perfectly comprehensible”, the judge added.

The judge said the committee had fairly performed a balancing exercise between the club’s interests and the objections of neighbours in an area which was becoming less commercial and more residential.

However, the judge ruled the constitutional blunder was fatal to the committee’s decision.

Bridgerow’s renewal application must now be considered afresh by a sub-committee of three.

Following the decision, a statement issued by the Platinum Lounge reads: “We are glad to have won the Judicial Review and look forward to putting our case before a new council committee.”

After the inital decision, the club feared its 40 members of staff would have to be made redundant but they won a temporary reprieve from closure when they lodged the appeal with the high court.

At the inital hearing, the committee ruled that where Platinum Lounge was situated was no longer suitable due to the increase in the number of people living nearby – from about 16 in 2005 to 110 in 2013.

At the original meeting, residents both for and against the removal of the licence aired their views.

Deborah Lomas, who runs the Rainforest shop on Watergate Row, said some residents felt intimidated by the club.

She said: “The people who live and work in the city are the ones  constantly being harassed by people who urinate on the Rows.”

However other residents spoke in favour.

James Kenny, of Watergate Street, said the club was well managed.

He said: “Platinum Lounge is not to everyone’s taste but I’ve no issue with it and I live 200 yards away.”

City centre Cllr Sam Dixon who said the club should be closed said she was disappointed by the result.

She said: “As the ward councillor elected by Chester City residents, I maintain the historic Rows are not the right location for a lap-dancing club because of the unique and special character of the area.

“Furthermore, the council’s policy makes it clear that sex entertainment venues should not be located in residential areas.

“The Bridge Street, Commonhall Street, White Friars area is becoming more and more residential so, on behalf of the residents I represent, I will continue to make the case that there should not be an SEV in this location.”

Council spokesman Ian Callister said: “The judged ruled in favour of the authority in regard to five of the substantive issues.

“He found against us on the sixth – a procedural matter – and legal counsel will be examining that decision.”

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