Sutton strip club plan halted


Local Government Correspondent

Plans to open a strip club in Sutton Coldfield have been turned down because of the ‘perception’ it would increase crime and seedy activity.

The bid by Flints wine bar in Belwell Lane, Mere Green, to re-brand itself as the Pussycats Gentlemen’s Club was thrown out by the city council after more than 100 residents and local businesses sent letters objecting to increases in late night noise, crime and nuisance as well as the moral decline of the area.

Licensing committee chairman David Osborne said: “The application is refused. We are particularly concerned at the increase in noise nuisance and anti-social behaviour.”

In an attempt to appease protesters the licensee Deirdre O’Rourke, who has 35 years experience running pubs, offered to cut back closing times from the initial suggested 3.30am to 1am weekdays and 2am at weekends, in line with other Mere Green nightspots.

But it was a late change of heart by local police, who at first had no formal objections, which swung the three-strong licensing committee against the introduction of nude dancing in Mere Green.

Sutton Coldfield police inspector Tom Hadley told the committee that whether or not crime would in reality increase was not the issue.

He argued there was a widely held perception among locals that seedy activities such as prostitution, drug dealing and alcohol-fuelled disorder would soar.

“We not only measure reported crime, but also how safe people feel, and community harmony. It’s about reassurance, trust and confidence.

“I believe that as a direct result of this application people in the area are more fearful of crime and more fearful of going out after dark.”

He recognised that there were initially no objections from his licensing officers, who had worked with Mrs O’Rourke to ensure it would be a well-run and discreet club. But added that the public reaction in recent weeks had persuaded him it would be a bad idea.

Lawyer Dominic D’Souza, who had recently moved to Mere Green, argued for the protesting residents saying that the council’s own policy stated that lap dancing and strip clubs should not be near schools, family shopping areas, community centres and libraries and houses – and all were within yards of the venue.

He said: ‘‘Residents living in this quiet village would not expect this kind of nuisance late at night. It is an inappropriate place for this kind of premises.

“If there is a lap dancing club application which should be refused it is this one.”

But retired police officer Sid Wood, speaking on behalf of Mrs O’Rourke, had argued that the club would cause less nuisance than the existing Flints wine bar.

He said: “At the moment people drink outside, there is music playing all even-ing. Under the new licence this would stop at 8pm. The only activity outside would be the occasional smoker.”

Mr Wood said that Mrs O’Rourke has agreed a strict code of conduct with police, would have a ‘members and their guests only’ door policy and the strippers would be on stage – no private dancing would take place.

Following the committee’s decision he said that it was ‘likely’ they would appeal against the decision. An appeal would be heard by magistrates.