Sex Establishments (shops)

Any person wishing to run either a Sex Shop require a Licence to do so from us under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

There is a 21 day advertisement requirement, following which we aim to complete this type of application within 28 days.

This service is not covered by the tacit authorisation process as it is in the public interest that we process the application before it can be granted.

There are fees applicable to this process.


Yes; a licence is required for either a sex cinema, a sex shop or a sexual entertainment venue. 

These are ‘any premises, vessel, vehicle or stall used to a significant degree for the exhibition of moving pictures, however produced, which are concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deal with or relate to or intending 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 etc of the genital organs or urinary or excretory functions.’

There is exemption for:

  1. premises licence under the Cinemas Act 1985 and used for a purpose for which a licence is required under that Act;
  2. premises used for non- commercial exhibitions under s6 of that Act; and 
  3. private dwelling- house to house which the public are not admitted.

These are ‘any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business which consists to a significant degree of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating sex articles or other things intended for use in connection with or for stimulating or encouraging sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity.’

The most contentious part of the definition is the phrase ‘significant degree’. Unfortunately, the courts have not been too helpful in defining this phrase and each case has looked at it on its own facts. One to one-and-a-half per cent of business turnover from the sale of sex items is held not to a significant degree; other material considerations are the nature of the display articles and the nature of the articles themselves: Lambeth London Borough Council v Grewal (1985) 84 LGR 538. In another case the judge said ‘significant must mean something which signifies, which is not insignificant, perhaps something which cannot be missed under the deminimis rule’: Watford Borough Council v Private Alternatives Birth Control and Education centres [1985] Crim LR 594

These are ‘anything for use in connection with or for stimulating or encouraging sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity.’  A licence is not required for the sale of birth control items.

The following may at any time, before the expiration of the period of 21 days following receipt of the application’s determination, appeal to the magistrates' court acting for the relevant area:

  1. an applicant for the variation of the terms, conditions or restrictions on or subject to which any such licence is held whose application is refused;
  2. a holder of any such licence who is aggrieved by any term, condition or restriction on or subject to which the licence is held; or,
  3. a holder of any such licence whose licence is revoked.
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