Calderdale's only lap dancing club gets licence for another year

Councillors have granted a controversial licence for a Halifax lap dancing club.

Saturday, 6th March 2021, 6:00 pm
La Salsa in Halifax

More than 30 objections were received by Calderdale Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee over Reza Shahsavar’s application to renew the sex establishment licence for the La Salsa Club at Silver Street in Halifax town centre.

The renewal has to be considered each year, with objectors arguing it is an establishment based on male sexual gratification and is situated in an unsuitable place, opposite the Womencentre refuge and close to Ebenezer Church.

For the club, owner Mr Shahsavar said it had been operating there for 19 years without issue and described it as “one of the safest places in town.”

West Yorkshire Police had not objected to the application.

A key argument put by objectors in written submissions and at the meeting was a case which now features in case law involving Thompson v Oxford Council, which they said meant councillors could refuse an application even if circumstances had not changed from a previously approved one.

Without any change, in recent years councillors have taken the view after legal advice that they have to approve the licence for the venue, which is the only sex entertainment venue in Calderdale.

Councillors posed several questions to the council solicitor Chris Riley who said the judge in that case had ruled that a different decision could be taken but councillors must give due regard to previous approvals and give reasons for deciding differently.

Objectors claim the case allows councils to do this without a change in circumstances and this could only be challenged by a judicial review at the High Court, which no club operator had successfully done.

Chris Green, of the White Ribbon campaign, a Calderdale based national charity which describes itself as working towards ending male violence against women by engaging with men and boys to make a stand against violence, opposed the application.

He said an authority which had a historic link to entertainment like Blackpool was now working towards having zero sex entertainment establishments and a dozen other authorities had established a zero limit.

“I think that is a major move forward and if they can see their way to doing it, if they can see no legal obstacles, I find it strange Calderdale find it appropriate to grant licences,” he said.

Objector and campaigner against the porn and sex trade, Saska Rakoff, said she believed the likelihood of sexual exploitation was “sky high” and challenged the advice given to councillors and statements made at previous hearings by the club’s legal team.

“If you make a similar decision this time you could be taken to court not by the club but by the objectors,” she said.

Mr Shahsavar said in 19 years the club had not had a police report.

People attending the club were very quiet and the performers were trained by the club’s manager and staff, he said.

“It’s more like a cabaret, it’s quite insulting when some of the objectors complain about selling sex – it is just a show bar with no touching, we are professional,” said Mr Shahsavar.

The establishment is licensed for lap dancing, pole dancing and striptease, but it has not been operating as a lapdancing club during the COVID-19 pandemic, but where restrictions had allowed had opened as an alcohol licensed venue.