Time for some naked ambition over former Leeds lapdancing venues?

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CAST YOUR minds back to before the Tour de France came hurtling through Leeds and the city was gripped by cycling fever.

In the midst of all that pedal-powered craziness, you might remember that the city also became locked in a polarising moral crusade.

It’s almost been a year since the Tour de France...and yet these bars are still lying there empty.

On the one hand, there were those who were seemingly racing against time to rid the city centre of some of its lapdancing bars before the eyes of the world started to turn to Leeds.

They were adamant that having these establishments in such prominent, city centre locations (including right on the start line of the aforementioned cycle race) was not in keeping with the modern, cosmopolitan city we wanted everyone to remember us as when the big event had come and gone.

On the other were those who insisted such bars should stay open, that they weren’t doing any harm and that a vocal minority shouldn’t be clamouring to run local, long-established businesses out of town.

Indeed every time the YEP covered this tussle, our website was flooded with angry commentators on both sides of the debate.

But it wasn’t long before the decision was made and three ‘sexual entertainment venues’ had to close.

The new council policy capped the number of strip clubs in the city centre at four, and the venues that had been fixtures on The Headrow were nowhere to be seen on Grand Depart day.

Whatever side you’re on, the legacy of that decision has been the fact that ever since then, we’ve been left with some huge vacant sites in some very prominent places across the city.

Take Red Leopard and Wildcats- the two bars that were formerly on The Headrow - for example.

The bars, which were on one of the busiest streets in Leeds, were two of the venues that were forced to close under the new rules.

Despite fighting their corner and taking the case to a judicial review, the clubs’ owners failed and were forced to shut up shop.

Now it’s almost been a year since the Tour de France – and two years since some of the venues had to close – and yet these bars are still lying there empty.

However elsewhere in the city centre, one eagle-eyed firm seems to have spotted the opportunity that the closure of these bars has left.

Deep Blue on Wellington Street, another lapdancing bar that had to shut under the new regulations, has seen some plans submitted to turn it into a restaurant and bar.

Having been left empty since it closed in 2013, the venue has fallen into disrepair.

But pub company Enterprise Inns has applied to bring it back into use.

The three-storey building is right opposite Leeds railway station and a few doors up from Majestic, so with such good footfall it’s surely a wise business move.

According to the plans, the company isn’t looking to make any major changes to the building and is merely wanting to try and bring it back into use - meaning they’ve essentially got themselves a ready-made venue.

It’s great to see these former bars finally getting a new lease of life, particularly because they are in such prime city centre locations.

Whatever side you decided to take over Leeds’ lapdancing situation, the end result of having these yawning gaps in such prime locations can’t be good for the city or its image in the long term.

What was seen by some as the city taking a moral stance has had a much longer term hangover than might have been expected.

Was it a price worth paying?

The truth is, nobody wants to see empty units in our city centre.

Here’s hoping that more businesses show some naked ambition in the near future and get the others snapped up.

Alex Newman, partner at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds

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