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You are here:home > Business > Licensing > Sex Establishments

Sex establishment licensing


Sex Establishments are defined in schedule three to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 as either sex shops or sex cinemas. Southampton City Council adopted the licensing provisions of schedule three of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 in relation to such premises in 1983 and readopted them in 1995.

Sex Shops

Sex shops are defined as any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business that consists to a significant degree of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating sex articles. "Sex articles" are further defined by the legislation.

The main purpose of applications for sex shop licences is to permit the sale of videos or DVDs classified as "R18" by the British Board of Film Classification (the BBFC) to be sold. The R18 category is a legally restricted classification primarily for explicit videos of consenting sex between adults. Such video recordings may only be supplied to adults in licensed sex shops.

Sex Cinemas

Sex cinemas are defined as any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used to a significant degree for the exhibition of moving pictures, by whatever means produced, which are concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deal with or relate to, or are intended to stimulate or encourage sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity or are concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deal with or relate to, genital organs or urinary or excretory functions, but does not include a dwelling-house to which the public is not admitted. Such premises will show R18 films to persons over the age of 18.

Sexual Entertainment Venues

From 6 April 2010 local authorities in England have been able to adopt additional powers to regulate lap dancing clubs and similar venues.

Section 27 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 (see link below) amends Schedule 3 to the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 to introduce a new category of sex establishment - a "Sexual Entertainment Venue". The legislation requires premises providing "relevant entertainment", such as lap dancing, to obtain a sex establishment licence. There is an exemption for premises providing such entertainment on an infrequent basis only.

Sexual entertainment venues are defined as "any premises at which relevant entertainment is provided before a live audience for the financial gain of the organiser or the entertainer" and "relevant entertainment" is "any live performance or live display of nudity which is of such a nature that, ignoring financial gain, it must reasonably be assumed to be provided for the purpose of sexually stimulating any members of an audience (whether by verbal or other means)". An "audience" can consist of just one person.

Local authorities have flexibility to decide whether to bring the provisions into force in their area.

Following consultation, council resolved to adopt the provisions relating to the licensing of sexual entertainment venues at its meeting on 11th July 2012. Further information is available via the link to sexual entertainment venues on the left.

The Home Office has provided guidance for local authorities regarding sexual entertainment venues. This will also be of use to operators, the police and the general public.


The application form and an example of the required public notice are available below. Licences are annual and the fees for grant or renewal of licences are currently £3,500.00. All applications must be advertised in the local press and immediately outside the premises. Copies of applications must be served on Hampshire Constabulary as follows:

Western Licensing Team,
Hampshire Constabulary,
Central Police Station,
Southern Road,
Southampton SO15 1AN


The legislation is complex and has been subject to considerable attention by the courts. Anyone considering applying for a sex establishment licence is strongly advised to take competent specialist legal advice at an early stage to ensure that their application is properly made.

Licensed premises are inspected on a frequent basis to ensure their compliance with the legislation and the licence conditions. It should be noted that the Indecent Displays (Control) Act 1981 prohibits the public display of any indecent matter unless access is only on payment or the display is in a shop that can only be accessed by passing beyond a warning notice. No person under the age of 18 may be permitted to enter such licensed premises.

Determination of Applications

All applications for sex establishment licences, except uncontested renewals, are required to be considered by the council's Licensing (General) Sub-Committee. All applications are determined on their merits, subject to statutory criteria, but certain additional factors will need to be considered, including the location of the proposed premises and their visual impact. Objections on moral grounds alone are unlikely to result in an application being refused.

Data Protection

Please note that the licensing authority may be required by law to disclose to the appropriate authorities, from time to time, further information relating to applications and licences for the purposes of law enforcement and the prevention of fraud.

Contacting the Licensing Team

If you need to contact us by email, 'phone or post, please do so using the details below.

Opening hourslink to interactive parking map

Members of the Licensing Team are normally available on weekdays at the Civic Centre, Southampton SO14 7LY from 09:00 to 12:00 and from 14:00 to 16:00 to assist personal callers. We may be available at other times by prior appointment.

Downloadable documents

Icon Name of file Size Download time
PDF document Sex Establishment application - pdf 59 KB 0secs @ 2Mbps
PDF document Sex Establishment Policy 66 KB 0secs @ 2Mbps
Word document Sex Establishment application public notice 49 KB 0secs @ 2Mbps
PDF document Sex Establishment licence fees 18 KB 0secs @ 2Mbps
PDF document Licensing Enforcement Policy 67 KB 0secs @ 2Mbps
Link to download Adobe Acrobat if required

Contact information