Sheffield City Council to hear strip club application despite legal challenge

Spearmint Rhino in Sheffield.
Spearmint Rhino in Sheffield.
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The future of strip club Spearmint Rhino in Sheffield is set to be debated by council leaders next month, less than a week before a judicial review which could overrule the decision.

Sheffield City Council is set to discuss the Bridge Street venue at a meeting in June 19, where it is expected that dozens of objections will be heard from residents.

If the club is granted its operating licence, which has to be reviewed yearly, the club could still be closed if the judicial review - set to take place on June 25 - rules that the city council has acted unlawfully in granting the licence.

Last year nearly 100 people objected to the club - including Green Councillor Alison Teal, who said she would once again call for the council to withdraw the licence.

She said: "It's inappropriate to have this so near to activities that involve students, children and vulnerable women. The location is not right and I don't think people should have to face that on a daily basis."

Objections were also made by representatives from Sheffield Hallam University, a rape crisis centre and from galleries in Sheffield’s creative quarter.

Following the last review, the city council granted a new licence for one year and added a number of conditions to the company.

Spearmint Rhino is no longer allowed to leaflet around the city, and no signage advertising the venue may be exhibited outside of trading hours.

The venue must also participate in three-monthly inspections from council licensing officers.

Residents can write to the council to object to the venue until May 15.

The judicial review, which is the second brought against the authority over Spearmint Rhino, has been granted to a 54-year-old Sheffield grandmother who goes by the pseudonym Irene Gladdison, after Sheffield City Council changed its policy on sexual entertainment venues in the city last year.

The council had initially planned to limit the number of venues to two, but in the eleventh hour ruled that there would be no limit on the number of strip clubs in Sheffield.

Two years ago the authority settled out of court, conceding that councillors and staff had failed to take gender equality into account, but again renewed Spearmint Rhino’s licence the following year, despite almost 100 objections.

Writing in a national newspaper, she said: “I believe that strip clubs make women less safe. That’s why I’m taking Sheffield Council to court for refusing to consider the negative impact on women and gender equality in the community when they came up with their policy of unlimited strip clubs, despite local people bringing it to their attention.

“It worries me that by having a policy that allows an unlimited number of strip clubs Sheffield Council, which has a legal obligation to promote equality, is dismissing the concerns of local people and is refusing to taking a stand on sexual objectification and normalised misogyny.”

She is using a crowdfunding site to raise cash towards the legal fees and has so far raised £3,532 towards the £10,000 target.

Alison Boydell, from the Sheffield branch of campaign group Not Buying It, said: "The location is completely inappropriate - it's smack bang in the middle of the cultural industries quarter of the city, close to Sheffield Hallam University, the students' union, and the Site Gallery.

“The whole area has changed drastically since Spearmint Rhino started its operation in Sheffield 16 years ago. There is student accommodation that backs onto it and more student accommodation in the surrounding area.

"It's open from 10pm to early in the morning and I don't honestly see how that contributes to the local economy.”

Sheffield City Council has declined to comment on the judicial review, but confirmed that the licensing sub-committee will take place on June 19.