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Campaigners fight on against lap-dancing clubs but The Griffin secures new licence

'Degradation of women is business model,' say Women's Equality Party

15 February, 2019

A STRIPTEASE club where performers collect £1 from each customer before they go on stage has secured a new licence, against opposition from campaigners who want Camden to start shutting down table-dancing venues.

The Women’s Equality Party (WEP) is campaigning for lap-dancing to be eradicated in the borough and for the council to stop renewing licences to the borough’s nine sexual entertainment venues.

The council has already said it would not allow another new venue to open within its boundaries, but existing clubs are able to apply for new licences each year.

The Griffin, in Clerkenwell Road, Holborn, which has been run by Wayne Chandler and his family for nearly 25 years, secured its renewal at a council hearing last Tuesday.

Councillors had been told that no complaints about the operation had been raised by police, its licensing department, people living nearby or dancers who had worked there.

They were told how dancers collected a pound coin from each customer before performing stage shows which had a divider keeping them away from those watching, and that roving security on the floor and behind the bar acted as protection. Some paid more for one-on-one private dances.

The WEP say the operation tests the Equality Act, and has ramifications for the way men view women.

Co-leader of the Camden branch Leah Jewett said: “For strip clubs, the degradation of women is a business model. The very presence of strip clubs on the high street sends a signal of their acceptability.”

She said the clubs were “normalising gender inequality” and said trying to explain to children about what went on in them was “disheartening”.

“How does it feel for a child taking in these ideas about men and entitlement and power, and about women servicing men and their sense of self-worth,” said Ms Jewett, adding that the council should “send out a powerful message” by refusing the renewal request.

But councillors were told by the club’s lawyer that they were not there to judge the merits of strip clubs, as this form of entertainment was lawful in the UK.

“It’s important to note that the voices of those affected by equality legislation are not one voice and you have quite a different view taken by those who work within the premises,” the club’s legal representative said. “They don’t voice the same concerns.”

Around 30 dancers perform at the club and are looked after by a “house mother”. A third of them have worked there for more than 10 years.

The WEP said that the issue was not about individual dancers who endorsed the operation and more about a wider debate about the effects of strip clubs, but The Griffin pointed to testimonies – anonymised – from its performers.

One explained that she was a student at the University of Westminster doing a tourism degree, and shifts fitted around her lectures.

She said: “I am a good dancer and in no way do I feel that what I do is degrading or something to be ashamed of.”

Another said she gave up a job as a cleaner for dancing, which was an “easier job and pays better than cleaning”, adding that she would not have done it for eight years if it was degrading and that she enjoyed her work.

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