Sheffield strip club 'makes streets safer', claims lawyer

Spearmint Rhino lap dancing club in Brown Street, Sheffield
Spearmint Rhino lap dancing club in Brown Street, Sheffield
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A lawyer representing Sheffield's only lap dancing club today claimed it makes streets safer, not more dangerous, as he hit back at opponents demanding its closure.

Councillors are today due to decide whether Spearmint Rhino can renew the sexual entertainment venue licence for its Brown Street club, in the city centre, where it has operated for 15 years.

Nearly 100 objections have been received, and this morning opponents told a licensing sub-committee meeting that strip clubs contribute to the objectification of women and have been shown to lead to an increase in sexual violence.

However, this afternoon the club's lawyer said while the venue was 'not everyone's cup of tea', claims that it was endangering women were borne out of 'preconceptions' and not 'reality'.

Philip Kolvin QC argued that if anything having a lit club with security staff on its doors made the street safer at night for members of the public.

"This street is practically deserted at night with the exception of Spearmint Rhino being there," he said.

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

Sheffield Council received 17 letters supporting the club's application, mostly from dancers and other staff working there, including one from a woman who claimed it had funded her legal studies.

Mr Kolvin 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.

He claimed some mothers chose to work two nights a week at the club, rather than seven days a week at a shop, so they could spend more time with their families.

"Sometimes there are preconceptions about how these places operate and one can understand why preconceptions like that exist," he said.

"But the picture painted by those making positive representations is a picture painted by those who actually make a living there. It's not based on supposition and preconceptions about victimisation. It's based on the true life experiences of the women and men who choose to make their living in this way."

Mr Kolvin said the venue's signage was 'discreet', with no sexual imagery or text, and no 'garish' lighting.

He also pointed out there was no history of violence or other crime associated with the club - a claim backed up by police and council officers.

He reminded councillors they could not oppose the application on moral grounds, whatever their feelings about strip clubs, but only on the basis it was having a negative impact on the area.

"My client recognises they (Spearmint Rhino lap dancing clubs) are not everyone's cup of tea, but they are responsible operators," said Mr Kolvin.

"All they can do is what they are doing, which is to do their level best to ensure they operate discreetly, safely and in a manner that's respectful of their neighbours."

Spearmint Rhino is one of two licensed sex venues in Sheffield, along with La Chambre swingers club in Attercliffe, which Mr Kolvin said was fewer than in other large cities like Leeds, Newcastle and Glasgow.

The council is considering whether to limit the number of such establishments allowed within the city to two, which would prevent any new venues opening.

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