A few years ago I did research on how sex-licensing works in Westminster, the London borough where Soho, Mayfair and Shepherd’s Market are located. The Licensing Act of 2003 (which applies only to England and Wales) streamlined several different licensing schemes into one, authorising local governments to grant a single premises licence to sell alcohol and provide forms of regulated entertainment. The four basic objectives to be taken into account when granting licences are: the prevention of crime and disorder, public safety, prevention of public nuisance and the protection of children from harm.
Businesses and entertainment conceived as sexual (because of the parts of the body that get exposed) must be declared and submit to regulation: sex shops, peep shows, stripping, lap-dancing, pole-dancing, table dancing. Places that have these licences are referred to as Sex (Encounter) Establishments. Gentlemen’s clubs, strip pubs and other venues are included. Regulated activities may allow near nudity but prohibit dancers from standing closer than a metre/3 feet from customers. Regulations always prohibit touching.
Each local authority grants its own licences, which is what the following note from Camden, another borough of London, is about. When I was doing research, Camden had a large number of licensed premises offering sex entertainment. The current issue is whether the Council will include burlesque in the conception of entertainment that must be regulated as sexual.
Camden Council Statement on burlesque
Camden Council is not preventing burlesque performances in any premises in the borough, it embraces the diverse entertainment on offer in Camden.
Our concern is to ensure proper regulation of the premises proposing to offer licensable activity. Our focus is on the premises – not the performers. It is the responsibility of the venue’s licence holder to ensure they have the correct permission for the event they are hosting.
Burlesque performance in its widest form can include various art forms and this alone would not require a licence. The Council’s concern is with any performance which may involve nudity. The Council looks at each application on an individual basis to assess what type of licence is required.
The Council has met with the burlesque community in response to their concerns and agreed to seek a clearer understanding of what constitutes adult entertainment. This will help define what reasonable measures premises should put in place prior to adult entertainment being performed.
A further meeting between the Council and the Institute is scheduled to take place in September 2009.
More discussion at Save Burlesque in Camden
Recently I wrote about the New York School of Burlesque.