Planned new lap dancing rules 'should be clearly defined'

Image caption,
Highland officials agreed that artistic performances such as burlesque should be protected

Venues seeking to stage lap dancing should not be able to call it burlesque or exotic dancing to get round new licensing rules, it has been suggested.

In a draft response to government consultation, Highland licensing officials said artistic performances should be clearly defined.

They said this would distinguish them from sexual entertainment and prevent rules from being circumvented.

Highland Licensing Committee will consider the draft response next week.

The Scottish government is consulting on proposals to establish a new licensing regime for sexual entertainment venues.

The fresh approach aims to ensure the safety and protection of customers and staff while protecting the interests of the local areas in which they operate.

Controversy was caused in May when a new lap dancing club opened in Inverness.

Opposition to an application from nightclub Hush came from Highland Violence Against Women Strategy Group.

It raised concerns about the exploitation of women and claimed the activity could increase crime.

However, a report to Highland Licensing Board said the nightclub had had a trouble-free operating history and a high standard of compliance with licensing rules.

More control

The government's consultation into sexual entertainment venues came about after plans to introduce a specific system of licensing as part of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 were rejected by Holyrood because they were introduced late in the Bill process.

At the time ministers pledged to return to the issue.

They hope an new regime will ensure more control over the number and location of venues in certain areas.

The consultation will also seeks views on whether local authorities should be able to set the total number of licences for such venues in their areas at zero.

One of the consultation questions asks if additional measures are required to "protect the position of artistic performances including, for example, exotic dancing".

Highland licensing officials agree that they are needed.

In the draft response they said: "It would not be helpful to list specific forms of performance which were excluded from the definition of sexual entertainment, such as 'burlesque' or 'exotic dancing', without further definition of these forms of performance to distinguish them clearly from sexual entertainment.

"Otherwise, there would be a possibility of organisers seeking to circumvent the licensing requirements by simply naming or advertising a performance as burlesque or exotic dancing, when in fact it is sexual entertainment within the meaning of the proposed definition of the latter term."

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