A bid by the owner of a leisure club and massage parlour to sell alcohol and play music until 5am has been thrown out, after police were able to convince a council licensing panel that the venue was being run as a brothel.
The refusal of the application from Winstons in Dewsbury Road, Beeston, comes more than a decade after it original alcohol-selling licence was revoked on similar grounds.
A meeting at Leeds Civic Hall yesterday (Feb 28) heard police and the licensing panel had visited the building, which was formerly a cinema before operating as Churchill’s leisure club for many years.
They saw various facilities including a gym and sauna, the meeting was told.
But it was the setup of the VIP suites - which contained comfortable double beds, TVs and jacuzzis, as well as permanent dim red lighting - which convinced the panel.
PC Cath Arkle, from West Yorkshire Police, told the meeting: “I don’t think anything has changed, it’s still a brothel.”
She recounted the troubled history of the premises, but also noted that on the most recent visit, the beds “could by no stretch of the imagination be termed massage tables”.
“Massage parlours seem to be the secret sign for brothels for people who want to visit premises such as these”, she said.
PC Arkle added that while she accepted the new owner had only relatively recently taken over the venue, he had worked there for many years and had taken over only two months after 29 people were arrested for drugs and prostitution offences.
“He would have been on the premises at the time,” she pointed out.
Applicant and premises manager Dan Hall and his barrister Duncan Craig insisted police had presented “no real evidence”.
Mr Craig said if the panel refused the application, its decision would be based on “prejudice, ill-founded assertions, gossip and rumour”.
“West Yorkshire Police have to produce some evidence that this premises is operating as a brothel,” he said.
“You simply have no evidence before you to prove this - all you have is idle speculation, gossip and rumour.”
Referring to the venue’s previous history, he said that as it would now be run under new supervision with new agreements, “what has gone before is not relevant”.
It was suggested at the meeting that if, as claimed, brothel activity had been ongoing, why had police not acted on it earlier.
Sergeant Dave Shaw from West Yorkshire Police said there could be various factors, including lack of resources, but hinted there had been ongoing “covert observation” and “it doesn’t mean it’s not on the radar”.
After a three hour meeting - during which the press and public were asked to leave three times for closed discussions - the panel voted to refuse the application outright.
Summing-up the panel’s findings, Leeds City Council’s legal officer Joy Lounds said it had been a “finely balanced decision” but it was concluded there was enough evidence to support the police’s claims.
She said the layout of the furnishings and VIP area were found to be ”inconsistent” with a simple massage parlour.
The red lighting “supports the premise that it is a brothel”, she added of the licensing panel’s findings.
Mr Hall and Mr Craig declined to comment further after the meeting. The venue has the right to appeal the decision.