The controversial application for a sexual entertainment venue licence in London's historic Jermyn Street has been refused by Westminster City Council following a heavily contested hearing before their licensing sub-committee on 2 March 2017. The new SEV licence was applied for on the basis that sexual entertainment would form only a "small and ancillary" element to the entertainment to be provided at an upmarket private members club being developed at 91 Jermyn Street in the St James’s area of the capital. The applicant indicated: “there would also be the ability to pay for nude dances in the meeting rooms if members so wished”. The application, and resident backlash, was prominently reported in the Evening Standard:
Residents, led by the St James’s Conservation Trust, together with the responsible authorities, opposed the application on the principal grounds that the character of the locality and the uses to which other venues in the vicinity were put made the granting of an SEV licence in Jermyn Street inappropriate. This was despite the fact that of the 25 SEV licences deemed to be the maximum number appropriate in Westminster, only 21 had so far been granted.
However residents emphasised that Jermyn Street was a prestigious street of national importance and international renown. It acted as the shop-window for the highest-quality British craftsmanship and hosted a higher number of Royal Warrant holders than any other street in the UK. Fortnum & Mason and the Royal Academy were within a one-minute walk of the proposed venue and attracted families and children both day and night. Right opposite 91 Jermyn Street was Sir Christopher Wren’s historic St James’s Church where William Pitt the Elder and William Blake had both been baptised (it was commented on at the hearing that the two Williams may well have had violently differing opinions of the merits of a sex entertainment venue opening in the area). The church still acted as a modern-day focal point for the community of St James’s. There were some 61 residential addresses within a 75m circumference around the proposed venue.
Residents also submitted that with Gaslight Gentleman’s Club so close by there was an unacceptable risk of “clustering” should a further SEV licence be granted in this location. A similar application for an SEV in this location had previously been refused in 2014.
The licensing sub-committee refused the application on the basis of the character of the locality and the uses to which other venues in the vicinity were put. Cllr Melvyn Caplan, who chaired the hearing, observed that it was an “inescapable fact that the SEV licence applied for was in historic Jermyn Street and this was always likely to be an inappropriate location”.
Gary Grant of Francis Taylor Building represented the St James’s Conservation Trust at the hearing, instructed by the Trustees.