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Sex establishments and sexual entertainment venues

Sex establishments and sexual entertainment venues

If you want to run a sex establishment you need a licence.

What is a 'sex establishment'?

By ‘sex establishment’ we mean a sex shop, sex cinema or a sexual entertainment venue.

What is a 'sexual entertainment venue'? 

A sexual entertainment venue means any premises that offer sexual entertainment or relevant entertainment* on a regular basis before a live audience for the financial gain of the organiser or the entertainer.  

*Relevant entertainment is any live performance or live display of nudity which is of such a nature that, ignoring financial gain, it must reasonably be assumed to be provided solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience (whether by verbal or other means). Examples include, amongst other things, lap dancing, pole dancing, strip shows and so on.

By law, a premises can offer relevant entertainment on an infrequent basis without the need to obtain a sexual entertainment venue licence, provided that the relevant entertainment does not occur for longer than 24 hours, once a month and on no more than 11 occasions over a 12 month period. To take advantage of this exemption, the premises must have the required permissions (such as performance of dance and music) under the Licensing Act 2003 either by means of a Temporary Events Notice or the premises' current premises licence.

Licensing conditions

The council has adopted a set of standard sex establishment licensing conditions on the licensing and regulation of sex establishments. It is strongly suggested that any applicant reads the sex establishment licensing conditions below before making an application.

Part 1 refers to sex establishments whilst part 2 refers to sexual entertainment venues. Please be aware that if you are buying an existing venue, these conditions may have been varied or amended.

Standard sex establishment licensing conditions (pdf 97 KB)

How to apply for a sex establishment licence

To make an application, you must submit:

  • a completed application form
  • plan of the premises to which the application relates showing, amongst other things, all entrances and exits to and from the premises and parts used in common with any other building
  • the application fee

Apply online - you can apply for a sex shop or sex cinema licence online via Gov.uk. Online applications aren't yet available for sexual entertainment venue licences.

Notifying the public of your application

Once your application has been submitted and approved, a notice must be displayed at or on the premises to which the application relates for a period of not less than 28 consecutive days from the day following the day the application was given to the council, where it can be conveniently read from the exterior of the premises.

Where the premises cover an area of more than 50 square metres, a further identical notice must be displayed every 50 metres along the external perimeter of the premises next to any highway.

The notice must be on pale blue paper sized A4 or larger and printed legibly in black ink, or typed in black in a font size equal to or larger than 16 point. 

The notice must state:

  • details of the application and activities that it is proposed will be carried on or from the premises
  • the full name of the applicant
  • the postal address of the premises, or in the case where there is no postal address, a description of the premises sufficient to enable the location and extent of the premises to be identified
  • the date, being 28 days after that on which the application is given to the council, by which objections may be made to the council and stating that the objections should be made in writing
  • that it is an offence to knowingly or recklessly make a false statement in connection with an application and the maximum fine (£20,000) for which a person is liable on summary conviction for the offence

A similar notice must also be published in a local newspaper or similar document within seven days of giving the application to the council.

Eligibility criteria

An applicant:

  • must be at least 18 years old
  • must not be disqualified from holding a licence
  • must have been resident in the UK at least six months immediately before the application or, if a body corporate, must be incorporated in the UK
  • must not have been refused the grant or renewal of a licence for the premises in question within the last 12 months unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal

Application evaluation process 

Fees will be payable for applications and conditions may be attached.

Will tacit consent apply?

No. It is in the public interest that the authority must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from the local authority within a reasonable period, please contact it. You can make an application by printing the application off the website, completing and submitting it to the licensing section or obtaining one via the licensing section.

Determination

All applications for the grant of a new sexual entertainment venue licence will be referred to a licensing committee for determination to take into account the criteria set as out in section 4.0 and 5.0 of the Sex Establishment Licensing Conditions, with regards to the character, relevant locality and the appropriate number of sexual entertainment venue for the relevant locality.

In determining the application, the licensing committee will have regard to the Sex Establishment Licensing Conditions, the application itself and any objections that may have been made. In all cases, each application will be determined on its own merits.

Fees (from 1 April 2017)

Grant: £2,287

Renewal/transfer/variation: £1,370

Fees are reviewed annually in April.

Application form and declaration

The following forms should be used whether you are applying for a licence for a sex establishment (sex shop, sex cinema etc) or a sexual entertainment venue.

Sex establishment licence statutory declaration (pdf 59 KB)
Sex establishment application form (pdf 95 KB)

Sex establishment notices 

Sex establishment newspaper advertisement (pdf 52 KB)
Form of certificate for sex establishment newspaper advertisement (pdf 39 KB)
Sex establishment site notice (pdf 51 KB)
Form of certificate for sex establishment site notice (pdf 49 KB)

Sexual entertainment venue notices

Sexual entertainment venue newspaper advertisement (pdf 42 KB)
Form of certificate for sexual entertainment venue newspaper advertisement (pdf 39 KB)
Sexual entertainment venue site notice (pdf 40 KB)
Form of certificate for sexual entertainment venue site notice (pdf 38 KB)


The holder of a sexual establishment licence may apply at any time for any variation of the terms, conditions or restrictions on or subject to which the licence is held.

The process of applying for a variation is the same as that for applying for an initial grant, except that a plan of the premises is not required unless the application involves structural alterations to the premises.

The holder of a sexual establishment licence may apply for renewal of the licence. In order for the licence to continue to have effect during the renewal process, a valid application form, together with the appropriate fee, must be submitted before the current licence expires.

The process of applying for the renewal of a licence is the same as that for applying for an initial grant, except that a plan of the premises is not required.

A person may apply for the transfer of a licence at any time.

The process of applying for the transfer of a licence is the same as that for applying for an initial grant, except that a plan of the premises is not required.

The council may refuse:

  • an application for the grant or renewal of a licence on one or more of the grounds below
  • an application for the transfer of a licence on either or both of the grounds below.

The grounds mentioned above are:

  • that the applicant is unsuitable to hold the licence by reason of having been convicted of an offence or for any other reason.
  • that if the licence were to be granted, renewed or transferred the business to which it relates would be managed by or carried on for the benefit of a person, other than the applicant, who would be refused the grant, renewal or transfer of such a licence if he made the application himself.

Last updated on 05 October 2018