Families object to ‘supersize’ sex club in Leeds’s historic hub

The Townhouse bar building in Leeds, pictured in 2005 in its former life.
The Townhouse bar building in Leeds, pictured in 2005 in its former life.
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Plans to open a two-floor lapdancing venue in the heart of Leeds’s historic Corn Exchange quarter have attracted a raft of objections from local families.

The proposed venue, called Black Orchid, would operate from the building that previously housed legendary nightspot Townhouse, and later Chilliwhites.

A licensing hearing at Leeds Civic Hall yesterday (March 14) heard that there had been 77 objections from local residents as well as businesses concerned about the impact of the venue - dubbed a ‘supersize sex club’ by some - on the historic nature of that part of the city centre, as well as upcoming plans to revitalise it.

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The meeting heard from a number of local residents including Craig Burton, who said the main concern was that while all the city’s other lapdancing clubs are “destination venues”, a new club on Assembly Street will be a “stumble in” spot with all the risks associated with booze fuelled weekend trouble.

“I am concerned as a resident, I am not a NIMBY at all,” he told the panel. “We appreciate these venues have a use.

“But we are in fear of turning the area into a Soho. We do not want to be Soho.”

He said the area was “ripe” for regeneration and placing a huge sex club at its heart would put those hopes “in jeopardy”.

Fellow Crown Street resident Lauren Saunby said that as a young woman, she would “feel unsafe” if the sex club licence was granted. “I feel I would be a prisoner in my own home” she told the panel.

Her neighbour Sarah Horton added that she was afraid of “being heckled by various different drunken men” when she is coming and going from the nearby PureGym in the evenings.

Their fellow objector Bryan Smith said: “This needs to be a special application, and it isn’t.

“It’s in the most historic part of Leeds. It’s also at the side of the Corn Exchange, one of our few Grade One listed buildings.

“We have all sorts of other buildings round it. The operator to me does not have a plausible case for it. He doesn’t get what he can do to enhance Assembly Street and Leeds. It’s culturally naive about Leeds.”

Richard Arnot, a solicitor representing Purple Door, another Leeds lapdancing club, said although his client would be viewed as a “trade objector” and business rival, the firm had genuine concerns about the impact of the proposed new venue’s proximity to important historical buildings.

Philip Kolvin, barrister for Aaron Mellor, who will manage Black Orchid, told the meeting that the owner of the company was investing £1million of his own money into the area and would be creating 30 jobs.

The “ultimate hope” was to help “reactivate” the area around Assembly Street as a new food and drink quarter for Leeds, Mr Kolvin told the panel, and the company would like to “reanimate what appears to be an under-invested small corner of Leeds”.

“He is confident he can do this without conflict with his neighbours,” Mr Kolvin said.

The panel was told that there were two other SEVs (sexual entertainment venues) operating in nearby York Place which were also in highly residential areas.

However he claimed there was no “groundswell of opinion against these” and “once they are up and running, the objections tend to die away”.

He also noted that neither West Yorkshire Police nor any organisations involved with tourism and the economy had objected.

The panel was urged to remember that “this is not a moral or political hearing”, and was given reassurances that “there will not be predatory, drunken men wandering around”.

The panel deferred its final decision for further deliberations. An announcement is expected next week.

‘Venue will bring £1m investment’

Philip Kolvin, barrister for Aaron Mellor, who will manage Black Orchid, told the meeting that the owner of the company was investing £1m of his own money into the area and would be creating 30 jobs.

The “ultimate hope” was to help “reactivate” the area around Assembly Street as a new food and drink quarter for Leeds, Mr Kolvin told the panel, and the company would like to “reanimate” an “under-invested” area. “He is confident he can do this without conflict with his neighbours,” Mr Kolvin said. The panel was urged to remember that “this is not a moral or political hearing”, and was given reassurances that “there will not be predatory, drunken men wandering around”.

Michael Tennant.

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