Sex establishments

Last Updated: 7 May 2024

We adopted Schedule 3 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 on 1 January 1984. This act allows us to licence sex shops and sex cinemas as sex establishments.

Section 27 of the Policing and Crime Act 2009 amended Schedule 3 of the above act. We adopted additional powers to regulate 'sexual entertainment venues', such as lap dancing clubs.

This legislation can empower local communities who have concerns about sexual entertainment venues opening in their neighbourhoods. Local people can oppose applications on wider grounds than is allowed under the Licensing Act 2003. 

For more details see the licensing policy on sexual entertainment venues (PDF 258KB / 46 pages).

You will need to apply for a licence to operate a sex establishment for the following:

  • a sexual entertainment venue is a premises where relevant entertainment* is provided for sexual stimulation of the audience
  • a sex shop is a premises used for business which consists, to a significant degree, of selling sex articles
  • a sex cinema is any premises used to a significant degree for showing films which are concerned primarily with, or relate to, or are intended to simulate, sexual activity 

How to apply for a licence

To apply for a licence please fill in the sex establishment licence application form (DOC 138KB / 14 pages).

Put a notice of the application in the local newspaper.

Display a notice outside the premises for a specific time to give passers by the chance to comment by a statutory closing date.

Return the application form and the relevant documents to the licensing group, along with the correct fee:

  • sex establishment (grant): £4,032.00
  • sex establishment (renewal): £902.00
  • sex shop (grant): £304.00
  • sex shop (renewal): £282.00

When considering an application we will take into account: 

  • whether the applicant is suitable
  • whether the person applying is a front person for someone else
  • the location and situation of the premises in relation to other premises
  • whether the number of sex establishments in the area is equal to or exceeds the number which we consider appropriate


If you disagree with our decision to refuse a licence or with any conditions you can appeal to the Magistrates' Court. You can appeal against the Magistrates' Court decision at the Crown Court. The decision of the Crown Court is final.

Offences and Penalties

Anybody who operates a sex establishment without a licence, fails to comply with licence conditions or admits people under 18 is committing an offence.

Penalties can range from £1,000 to £20,000.

Further information can be found in The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.  

*The meaning of ‘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 solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of an audience (whether by verbal or other means).' An audience can consist of just one person (eg where the entertainment takes place in private booths).