OXFORD’S only lapdancing club has been stripped of its licence after complaints it created a “hostile environment”.
The Lodge opened at its current premises in Oxpens Road last August after being forced out of St Ebbes. But under Government rules it must renew its sexual entertainment venue licence every year.
Yesterday, Oxford City Council revealed the licence had not been renewed with immediate effect.
The renewal application received 23 letters of support – mostly from staff and the owners – as well as 20 objections. Those in support said it provided a friendly atmosphere and good job opportunities, while those against said the club objectified women and caused noise and harrassment.
But club owner Al Thompson, who said 50 girls worked from the club, yesterday vowed to fight the decision all the way, claiming it was based on hearsay.
Referring to the city council, he said: “They granted us a licence a year ago, and now they’ve suddenly decided to change their minds, leaving a lot of people out of a job and wrecking a perfectly viable business.
“The police had no one at the meeting because they didn’t have any issue with it. The council has based it all on hearsay.”
He said the club would continue to operate without fully-nude girls and said he was seeking legal action.
He said: “We’ve got a QC and our legal team working out the best way for us to come back at this, but we will take it as far as it needs to go, and that includes the High Court.”
The application for a new licence was thrown out after a meeting of the city’s licensing and registration sub committee last Monday but the decision was only made public yesterday.
Committee chairman Van Coulter said: “There are very select grounds on which you can make a refusal, but one of which is if there has been a change in the vicinity.
“We heard that the existence of the club has given rise to problems in the area. There was one lady, for example, who gave testimony about comments made to her, which I am too much of a gentleman to repeat. We have evidence that the existence of the club has created a hostile atmosphere, and we decided to give weight to that.”
In a letter to the council, one resident said: “These venues demean sexuality, demean women, and indeed demean men. They cast a pall of shame over the whole area.”
Another added: “I object to the location of this club. It is opposite an educational establishment which holds classes in the evening.”
And another said: “I do not think it is fair on local residents to have to put up with the kinds of noise and petty harassment that routinely arise out of proximity to a sex establishment.
“Having lived next to one in London I can testify that it can produce a very unpleasant atmosphere on the streets.”
Thames Valley Police yesterday refused to confirm whether the force had given an opinion on the application.
Employees and customers of the club wrote to the council to support the application.
One dancer said: “Even though there are clubs much closer to my home than the Lodge I drive for two-and-a-half hours to get there because the club is so welcoming and safe.”
The club is now not allowed to provide sexual entertainment, pending the outcome of any appeal. Mr Thompson said it would continue to remain open as a nightclub.