A community forum is urging Tower Hamlets council in east London to clarify whether a gay pub which holds a weekly comedy strip night is at risk from a new draft policy banning ‘sex establishments’.

Fears arose that the White Swan on Commercial Road would be categorised as a ‘sex establishment’ by the council under new rules which allow them to close such premises if they see fit.

The council received a petition last month urging them to secure the venue’s future with signatories saying they were “surprised and shocked” the venue was being “targeted for review”.

The council insisted no decision had been taken on the pub’s future or whether it fell within the definition of a sex establishment.

On increased anxiety in the borough, Rainbow Hamlets has written to the council saying they were told by officers that the venue was seen to be “included in the scope” of the scheme and they are urging the council “to take a definitive view” now.

In a letter seen by PinkNews.co.uk, Rainbow Hamlets says: “A clear narrative is emerging that the Mayor and the local authority is intending to force the closure of a gay venue.

“In our submission we have already set out the potential economic impact of a restriction on the White Swan’s current activities and the historic reasons why intervention of this nature in a long established venue is a potential trigger issue.”

“The key issue is whether, as defined by [section 2A, Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982], the provided entertainment is ‘of such a nature that, ignoring financial gain, it must reasonably be assumed to be provided solely or principally for the purposes of sexually stimulating any member of the audience.’

“Neither the operators nor the customers of the White Swan see the event as exploitative in any way or primarily for sexual gratification. We invite the Council to reach the same conclusion and make plain that the White Swan is not a Sex Entertainment Venue.”

A council spokesperson reiterated their position to PinkNews.co.uk today: “No decision has been made at present regarding sex establishments.

“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 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.