The Lodge strip club, which was closed two weeks ago when the Council refused to renew its licence, was reopened on Wednesday after the High Court stayed the decision pending a full hearing.
Following campaigns to have the club closed at its city centre location in April 2011, the Lodge relocated last October to its current location by the Ice Rink on Oxpens Road. However, when the club owners sought a renewal of the club’s stripping licence, they were denied this by the council on the basis of local complaints.
After receiving a reported 23 letters from local residents opposing the renewal of the club’s licence, the Council announced its decision to deny it, with Sub-Licensing Committee Chairman Van Coulter alleging, “We have evidence that the existence of the club has created a hostile atmosphere, and we decided to give weight to that.”
At the time, Al Thompson, the manager of The Lodge argued that the accusations were “hearsay” and stated the club would appeal the Council’s decision.
Following their appeal to the High Court, the decision by the Council has been stayed and the club allowed to temporarily reopen. Oxford City Council released a statement, saying, “We have been notified that the High Court, on the application of the owners of The Lodge, has granted a stay of the City Council Licensing Committee’s decision not to renew the sexual entertainment venue licence. This will allow them to carry on providing sexual entertainment until their judicial challenge to the decision not to renew their licence is resolved.
Unapologetic about their prior decision, the Council claimed the ruling was “a disappointing development which runs counter to the evidence presented to the Licensing Committee on concerns generated by the presence of The Lodge.”
They continued, “The committee’s decision not to renew the licence for these premises for sexual entertainment was taken in good faith on the balance of evidence presented to it, and the Council will continue to monitor the operation of these premises during the period of the ‘stay’ to ensure that the limited controls provided by licence conditions are adhered to.”
Club manager Al Thompson told Cherwell, “We are very very pleased that the decision of Oxford City Council to refuse our application to renew our SEV license at The Lodge Gentleman’s Club Oxpens Road has been stayed by the High Court pending the full hearing.“
The Court have noted the good history we have operating in Oxford and the potential strength of our case. Myself, staff and the management team are both relieved and delighted to back at work.”
Not all are pleased with the latest developments, however, with one female student, who wished to remain anonymous, telling Cherwell, “The issue was not so much the club itself as its customers. When coming home from midnight ice hockey on a Wednesday evening we’ve had to call an ambulance for one man who was passed out on the road and subsequently wet himself.“
Another time I walked past a pair of men about to get into a taxi. One of them tried to grab me and although luckily his friend held him back, as I walked away I could hear the friend convincing the first man that he couldn’t ‘have’ me, even though ‘he could have if he had wanted to’.”
However, one employee of the club, who said she was a graduate student working there to fund her education, defended it. She claimed the area outside Lodge was “relatively safer than the road outside Park End or another big club.” She also added that the Lodge was a “pretty good employer”, where all the girls were selfemployed and able to earn a decent commission for their night’s work.
Netiya Shiner, a commenter in the Facebook group ‘Misogyny Overheard at Oxford Uni’ voiced the belief, “I don’t think it’s my place, as a feminist, to tell other women what is and what is not an “acceptable” profession. That said, no one should have to put up with harassment for any reason, let alone their career choice, and to ignore the issues many face in the sex industry is to reinforce patriarchal values like the objectification of human beings.”
Benedict Hardy, added, “It seems to me that working in the sex industry should be ‘just another job’. Clearly it isn’t, because exploitation is still rife in all sectors of the sex industry, but that doesn’t mean that the problem lies in sex work itself. There are (shock horror) women who happily work in the sex industry, of their own free will, and for fair pay.’