The Royal British Legion has launched an investigation after two of its giant fund-raising poppies ended up on the side of a Birmingham lap-dancing club, it was revealed last night.
Ex-servicemen said they were disgusted the Rocket Club in Broad Street had been chosen as a venue to commemorate dead and injured troops.
However, the owner of the nightspot, in the heart of the city's entertainment district, said yesterday he was a keen supporter of the work of the Legion, whose patron is the Queen. And he insisted his club was a popular venue with service personnel.
The huge poppies, which measure 6ft by 5ft, are part of a national fundraising campaign. They are produced by the Legion in the run-up to the annual services of commemoration and the two-minutes' silence on Remembrance Sunday and November 11.
The Broad Street Business Improvement District (BID), an organisation representing local businesses, purchased 30 so-called building poppies, costing #350 each, from the Legion. It then sold them on to individual restaurants, bars and hotels.
The Rocket Club bought a pair of poppies for #700 and paid a further #100 to BID, which has not made a profit, to cover the costs of putting them up.
Gerald Rose, aged 77, chairman of the National Service Veterans' Association, criticised the club's use of the poppies. He said it was an undignified way to remember those killed and injured while serving their country.
He said: "I think it is bloody terrible. Poppy Day is to remember the lads who didn't come home and this is deplorable.
"It must have been done without thinking. It is offensive and the people who have put the poppies up are thoughtless.
"I didn't think someone would stoop as low as this."
A Royal British Legion spokesperson said: "We were not aware that the owner of the Rocket Club had chosen to display two building poppies outside his premises and we are currently looking into the situation."
Rocket Club boss Alan Sartori, who is a member of the Broad Street BID, said he was a keen to raise money for the Legion and lap-dancers would also be selling traditional lapel poppies inside the club.
He said: "I think it is a very good thing to do. As for putting two giant poppies on a lap-dancing club, what's wrong with that? We get service people here all the time.
"At the end of the day, I have paid #800 to the Legion to help them and I hope my business raises thousands of pounds for ex-servicemen in the coming week."
Mike Olley, manager of the Broad Street BID, said the Rocket Club was a "legal entity" and he could not see a problem with it displaying the famous symbol of remembrance.
Mr Olley said: "It is a lapdancing club. It is a licensed premises. I don't think it is inappropriate at all. We are raising money for the servicemen and women of this country."
John Dolphin, chairman of the Federation of Birmingham Ex-Service Associations, which represents more than 30 veterans' organisations, said he expected complaints about the Rocket Club's poppies.
"I think the older generation will be outraged," he said.
"But if the club are prepared to put their money upfront I don't think any injured soldier would worry if the money came from a poppy appeal at a strip club. Many a squaddie has been to a strip joint."
The Archdeacon of Birmingham, the Ven Hayward Osborne, said: "If the Royal British Legion was concerned about where the poppies might be put it would have been helpful if they had discussed that with the Broad Streetmanagement first.
"I am not concerned about where the poppies are displayed - I am concerned there is a strip club there, full stop."
>> Read Post Comment here