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Sex shops

Introduction

The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 requires premises which operate as sex shops to obtain a licence from the Licensing Authority, Adur District Council or Worthing Borough Council, before commencing to trade.

A sex shop is any premise, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business that consists, to a significant degree, of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating sex articles.

Adur & Worthing Councils Services Licensing Unit is the department responsible for the licensing of sex shops and the enforcement of the relevant regulations under the legislation.

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Currently licensed sex shops

At present there are no licensed sex shops in the Adur district or the borough of Worthing though there are a number of unlicensed shops that do sell sex articles.

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Difference between licensed and unlicensed sex shops

The main difference between a licensed and unlicensed sex shop is that a licence enables the sale of films (including DVDs and videos) classified as R18 by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Such films may be supplied to adults only on the premises of a licensed sex shop, of which there are currently about 90 in the UK.

It is an offence to sell such films from unlicensed premises or by mail order

Furthermore, a licensed sex shop cannot by law admit persons under the age of 18 into the premises, either as customers or to work, and allows the Licensing Authority to impose appropriate conditions on the premises controlling how the business is operated. These include conditions regarding the appearance of the premises, its hours of business and the content of its advertising on the building and within.

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How to obtain a sex shop licence

All sex establishments seeking to operate in the Adur district or borough of Worthing are required to be licensed by the respective Licensing Authority. The Act gives some guidance on the grounds to be considered when determining an application for a sex establishment which are defined by the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 as sex cinemas or sex shops.

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Application process

The licence application form should be completed and returned with the appropriate fee. The applicant will need to advertise the application by way of a public notice placed in the local newspaper within 7 days of the date of the application, in a format agreed by the council. They must also place a notice on or near the premises for a period of 21 days beginning on the date of the application. Objections in writing, stating the relevant grounds for the objection, will be considered if received within 28 days of the advert. The council will carry out a consultation process where views are sought from:

  • Sussex Police
  • West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service
  • Adur & Worthing Councils' Environmental Health Department
  • Adur & Worthing Councils' Planning Department
  • Community Safety Department
  • Local ward councillors
  • Neighbouring householders and businesses within 50 meters of the premise

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Consideration of the application

The Act specifies a number of issues which should be considered:

  • Unsuitability of the applicant by reason of conviction or any other reason
  • The number of sex establishments in the relevant locality
  • Whether the grant of a licence would be inappropriate having regards to the character of the relevant locality, the use to which any premises in the vicinity are put, or the layout, character or condition of the premises

The Licensing Authority does not have the right to have regard to the morality of sex establishments. Its approval or disapproval of sex establishments is not a matter which can be considered. Straightforward objections on the grounds that sex establishments should not be allowed have no part to play in a local authority consideration regarding these premises.

  • Each application shall be considered on its own merits, following the appropriate consultation
  • Any sex establishment licence may be granted subject to Conditions imposed by the Licensing authority, which may differ depending on location
  • Any initial sex establishment licence shall be granted for 12 months

Applications shall be decided by way of a hearing held by the Licensing Authority. The applicant shall be invited to present their case to the committee usually at a public meeting, however, this can be held in private if it is felt necessary to guarantee a fair hearing. The committee will consider the applicant's case and any relevant written objections and may hear verbal objections, if required to assist its decision. A written decision is published within 5 working days including the reasons for that decision though in practice the committee usually gives a verbal decision on the day.

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Application forms and fees

The current application cost for a Sex Establishment licence has been set at £2,900.00 for the financial year ending 31st March 2018.

Application forms

Notice forms

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Renew or Transfer sex shop licence

The annual renewal of a sex shop licence currently stands at £1510.00 for the financial year ending 31st March 2018.

Renewal forms

Transfer of licence forms

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Sexual Entertainment Venues

The Policing & Crime Act 2009 came into effect on 6th April 2010. Among other measures it allowed local authorities in England to adopt additional powers to regulate lap dancing clubs and similar venues.

Section 27 of the Policing & Crime Act 2009 amended Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 introducing a new category of sex establishment called 'Sexual Entertainment Venue' which, if adopted by a local authority, requires premises in that area who provide 'relevant entertainment', such as lap dancing to obtain a Sex Establishment Licence. There is an exemption for premises that provide such entertainment on a strictly occasional basis.

The legislation is not mandatory. Each local authority can decide for itself whether the new provisions are necessary and should come into force in their area. Adur District Council and Worthing Borough Council have both adopted the statutory provisions.

The Home Office has provided guidance regarding sexual entertainment venues and this can be viewed below:

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