A bar in the City of London has been hit with a record £28,000 fine for staging unlicensed sex shows.
The owner, manager and premises licence holder of Charlie's Bar in Crosswall, EC3, was prosecuted by the City of London Corporation for operating a lap-dancing venue without an appropriate Sex Entertainment Venue (SEV) licence and for breaching conditions of its Premises Licence.
The move is one of the first prosecutions under new sex establishment legislation, which the City of London Corporation adopted in 2010. The law requires any venue that wishes to provide lap-dancing in the City to hold an SEV licence.
Under a 'frequency exemption' in the legislation, other licensed premises are permitted to provide lap-dancing or other sexual entertainment on up to 11 occasions within a 12-month period without holding an SEV licence.
City of London Police and City Corporation officers obtained evidence that the venue had hosted at least 14 lap-dancing events in the four month period September-December 2011, over-running the frequency exemption.
Meanwhile, CCTV evidence showed that entertainment often transgressed into "more intimate and illegal sexual activity provided by dancers" according to the City of London Corporation.
When City of London officers requested CCTV footage from the venue's management, it became apparent that the cameras did not cover all the public areas of the premises or hold the recordings for 31 days as required by a condition of its existing Premises Licence.
City of London Police brought a review of Charlie's Premises Licence which resulted in the City's Licensing Sub-Committee revoking the Premises Licence.
The City of London Corporation subsequently issued summonses against the owner, manager and Premises Licence Holder for the offence of "knowingly using or knowingly causing or permitting the use of the premises as a sex establishment otherwise than under and in accordance with a licence".
On 26 July 2012 the three defendants pleaded guilty before the City of London Magistrates Court. When imposing fines totalling £28,000 along with legal costs in the sum of £3,500 the court observed that the offences were "wilful, knowing and for commercial gain". In addition, the manager had his personal licence suspended for six months.
Edward Lord, chairman of the City of London Corporation's Licensing Committee, said: "The Corporation is determined to make the City a safe place to live, work and socialise. We will not tolerate licensed premises acting outside the law. Our SEV policy and CCTV conditions are there to protect the public - and staff - and premises that fail to abide by them will be prosecuted.
"These convictions, the level of fines and the Magistrates' decision to suspend the Manager's personal licence send a very clear message to the industry that they must comply with the law or risk hefty punishment."
By Neil Gerrard
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