A Leeds MP and a charity have joined a chorus of disapproval after a new two-floor lap dancing club was given the green light to operate near the Corn Exchange.
Bosses of the seven-day Black Orchid venue, in Crown Street, say they will invest £1m in restoring the venue and plan to transform the area into a “food and drink quarter”.
But Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn said he was “disappointed” by the council’s decision to grant the Sexual Establishment Licence for the club, which will be housed at the former Chili Whites.
Mr Benn said: “I was surprised and very disappointed by the decision given all the objections that had been received.
“I don’t see how it is consistent with the council’s own policy that such venues are “generally not appropriate” near family leisure facilities, retail shopping areas, historic buildings, or residential areas.”
The venue, off Assembly Street, will be near the 19th century Corn Exchange building, shops and a gym.
Philip Kolvin QC, on behalf of the applicant, said the company hoped to restore the building and “bring it into a productive use”, as well as “reactivating” the area as a food and drink quarter.
He said: “There are a number of closed venues and it seems as though some of the venues down that neck of the woods are un-invested, and it feels as though the area is in need of a little bit of tender, loving care.”
Mr Kolvin said the applicant would invest £1m of his own money into the venue, creating jobs for 30 workers.
However, the application received 77 objections and a petition with 200 signatures opposing the lap dancing club..
Leeds West MP Rachel Reeves said: “The decision of Leeds City Council to approve the licence for a new lap dancing club in the city is the wrong one.
“As a child-friendly city, Leeds should be actively seeking to celebrate and promote women and girls by ensuring the city is a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
“I would urge Leeds City Council to consider the strength of feeling shared across the city and look again at the number of venues approved for the centre.”
The council said the lap dancing club would not be near properties with a “sensitive use” or in a “sensitive location”.
But the authority’s licensing policy agrees the venues are “generally not appropriate” near family leisure facilities, retail shopping areas, historic buildings, residential areas or schools – among other places.
Support After Rape & Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL), which supports women and girls in the city affected by sexual violence, objected to the application.
Sandra McNeill, trustee at SARSVL, told the YEP: “Licensing such clubs suggests Leeds City Council condones the sexual objectification of women for money, that is going on inside them.
“This actively damages women and girls living and working around lap dancing clubs.”
A council spokesman said: “In reaching their decision, the sub-committee determined that the application did not offend the requirements and objectives of the council’s policy in relation to its location as the subcommittee determined that the proposed venue will not be near properties with sensitive uses or in a sensitive location.
“Furthermore it did not exceed the quota of sexual entertainment venues for the city centre as set out in that policy.
On the YEP’s Facebook page, readers had their say after the licence was granted.
Martin Walker said: “Sounds a better use of the building than a nightclub.
“Less likely to be people getting drunk, stabbed or shot. I’m all for it!”
Declan Fay said: “Great news – can’t wait!” Rick Poppa said: “It’s an outrage!”
April Louise Graham said: “I could think of a lot better things.”