Sheffield lap dancer comes to the defence of Spearmint Rhino

The future of Sheffield strip club Spearmint Rhino hangs in the balance following a full day of discussion in the council chamber.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 5:46 pm
Updated Wednesday, 20th June 2018, 9:41 am
Rachel McCoy (right) with Spearmint Rhino dancers and university students
Rachel McCoy (right) with Spearmint Rhino dancers and university students

Opponents accused the venue of making women feel unsafe around Brown Street where it is based, breaching equality requirements and links to crime and anti-social behaviour.

While the licensing sub-committee at Sheffield City Council heard from a current dancer at the club who said lap dancing for Spearmint Rhino had “allowed her to provide for her family” and that it was a supportive and safe place to work.

Under current legislation the venue must apply for a sexual entertainments operating licence every year, with more than 150 objections received - most prominently from Sheffield Hallam University, which has announced major investment in the city centre.

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If Spearmint Rhino stays put, Sheffield Hallam University would become “the only British university to have a strip club in the middle of the campus”, the hearing was told.

Sheffield mum-of-two Rachael McCoy, 36, who works as a self-employed entertainer at the club, told the hearing: “I can provide for my family and provide a lifestyle that has changed my world.

“Where do you want us to go? Spearmint Rhino has been a very successful establishment for a very long time. Why should we be squeezed out when we’ve been here so long. We are part of this city as well.

“I have always felt totally supported. Let us continue doing what we love, what we are good at, and keep providing for our families.”

However, the hearing also heard from Rotherham-based campaigner and former lapdancer Sammy Woodhouse who said she had worked at the Sheffield Spearmint Rhino about seven years ago - along with a raft of other venues around the country.

She said she had once allowed a man to drain his life savings paying for her to dance - a sum of around £40,000 - while working at another premises.

“I saw myself as nothing more than an object for men,” she said. “When I first went into it it was entirely my own choice and when a man walked through the door I knew I could wrap him around my little finger and make him do anything I wanted.

“I didn’t care about his feelings. I was a lap dancer. That was my job. It’s exploitative to the men as well as the dancers.”

Sheffield Hallam University had said the lap dancing club could seriously undermine its Campus Masterplan, a five year project which will see major multi-million pound development of the Cultural Industries Quarter with a new gateway to the university.

Amanda Hughes from the university told the hearing: “How much appetite will there be for Sheffield Hallam University if Spearmint Rhino stays in that location?

“It’s in the middle of the cultural industries quarter and on the knew Knowledge Gateway and I don’t see how this fits into either knowledge or education.”

Philip Kolvin QC, representing Spearmint Rhino, said: “Objections should not be based on moral grounds. Something can be inappropriate during the day but not at night. You wouldn’t want it open while kids were walking about but it’s okay at 10 o’clock at night.

“All my client can do is its level best to remain discreet, compliant and respectful to its neighbours.”

A final decision by Sheffield City Council will be published later this week.