A petition has been delivered to a London borough council after fears its initial consultation on a new ‘sex establishment’ closure policy would threaten a gay pub with a weekly strip night.
But Tower Hamlets Council told PinkNews.co.uk today no venues have been selected for review as they have not yet finished analysing their first consultation on the policy.
600 regulars of the White Swan on Commercial Road near Limehouse put their names to a petition saying they were “surprised and shocked” the venue was being “targeted for review”, the BBC reports.
The council had consulted last autumn to “gather community opinions on a draft policy which says that there is no location within Tower Hamlets suitable for sex establishments”.
The policy would allow the council to shut down venues which offered pole-dancing, lap-dancing and stripping in order to protect against exploitation of women.
The petition’s author said no women were involved in the gay comedy strip contest held on Wednesday evenings at the White Swan.
Daryl Stafford told the BBC “It certainly feels like it’s extremely homophobic.
“It feels as though it’s because it’s a gay venue and there are a lot of people on the council who do not approve of having a gay venue in the middle of their borough.”
But the council insists no venues have yet been selected for inclusion in the review.
The petition reads in part: “The White Swan, Commercial Road, E1 caters for the Gay community. It has been under the same management for twenty six years. There is no prostitution or exploitation on the premises and there has never been any complaint about the White Swan by residents, police or the licensing authorities.
“We are therefore surprised and shocked that a venue which has an international reputation, is being targeted for review by the Council as a so called “sex” establishment.
“We call on the Council to prove its commitment to equality and exclude the White Swan from this discriminatory policy.”
A council spokeswoman told PinkNews.co.uk: “No decision has been made at present.
“The council is part way through the analysis and evaluation of the sex establishment consultation that took place in autumn. There was a record number of responses to the consultation and it was clear that residents felt strongly about the matter.
“A consultation meeting was held with Rainbow Hamlets [Tower Hamlets' LGBT Community forum] and these views along with all of the others collected as part of the consultation process will be considered.
“No decision has been made in relation to which premises would be deemed to be sex establishments. National sex establishment legislation will be adhered if and when this process occurs.”
Barry Kirk, a co-ownder of the pub told the BBC: “We’ve survived a lot over the years.
“But Wednesday is our only busy weeknight. If they kill off our Wednesday nights, we’ll be threatened with closure.”
The leader of the Conservative group at Tower Hamlets, Peter Golds, said: “I, like most reasonably minded people, have concerns about scantily clad women being exploited.
“But consenting adults looking for a laugh, a joke and comedy is not exploitation.”