OXFORD’S only lapdancing club has closed its doors after the city council refused to renew its licence. But The Lodge’s owner Al Thompson has vowed to fight a costly legal battle to change the decision, which has affected the livelihoods of dozens of employees. Oxford City Council last month threw out an application to renew the Oxpens Road club’s adult entertainment licence.
Mr Thompson now plans to to fight the council’s decision at the High Court.
He warned a judicial review could cost taxpayers more than £100,000 in fees and damages.
The owner argued the council had granted the annual licence the year before and had not justified changing its mind.
He said: “It is a very expensive process but we feel aggrieved so it’s what we must do.
“They granted us a licence in July last year and gave very detailed reasons and strict conditions to operate.
“We have invested a lot of time and money into that building and now, without any objections from police or locals, the councillors have decided not to renew the licence and not made it clear why.
“Fair enough, if they said this premises had caused major problems, but clearly that is not the case.
“We feel we have been unjustly treated. It’s a grossly unfair decision.”
He said about 25 permanent staff would continue to be paid until a final decision was reached.
And he insisted he would claim costs off the council if the club won the licence back.
Gerald Gouriet QC, whose former clients include Las Vegas casino Caesar’s Palace, will represent the club.
Mr Thompson said councillors must have objected to the club on moral grounds.
He added: “It’s how my staff choose to make a living and now they can’t.
“It’s ridiculous they can change their minds for no reasons and drastically change these people’s lives.”
Immediately following the decision Mr Thompson told the Oxford Mail he would keep it open as a nightclub.
But yesterday he said the business was only viable as a gentlemen’s club.
He said he had still not made back all of the £200,000 invested into the business.
The renewal bid received 23 letters of support and 20 objections. Opponents raised concerns over the impact the club was having on the area.
One objector said: “They (lapdancing clubs) cast a pall of shame over the whole area.”
Most of the support came from club staff and owners.
Van Coulter, chairman of the licensing and registration sub committee, told the Oxford Mail last week the club had created a “hostile atmosphere”.
But last night council spokesman Louisa Dean said the council would not comment until they had seen the papers.
She said: “We have not received or been served with these papers as yet.”
The club was forced out of its old St Ebbes home last year before reopening in the new spot in November.
DANCERS, bouncers, bar workers and managers at the Lodge Club have spoken of their concerns for the future after its licence renewal was refused.
More than 50 self-employed dancers work from the club, and more than two dozen other workers count it as their main source of income.
Bartender Kara Jane, 21, of Oxford, said: “This is my sole income, and if I don’t have a job I can’t pay my rent, I would have to move back home.”
Oxford-based Charlie Smith, 30, said: “I have been dancing for 12 years and I choose to work here because it’s the best club I’ve ever worked at.”
Flic Johnson, 25, has been a dancer at the club for two years full-time and was hoping to work part-time to pay for a postgraduate law degree at Brookes.
She said: “I’m worried about where my second fees installment is going to come from.”
If the club closes, the future of Oxford-based Scope Security could also hang in the balance.
Business owner Sam Hasaj said: “The Lodge is our main client. We have four guys who work here full-time and two or three others who come in every now and then.”
Lodge manager Jess Hayes, 34, who commutes from Birmingham, was due to return from maternity leave next week, but now she fears for her future. She said: “For a lot of people it’s their livelihoods.”