Upstairs, York’s only lap dancing venue, is to remain open despite objections from the York Feminist Network (YFN).
Upstairs, which is situated above Mansion on Micklegate, appealed to have their 12 month licence renewed in November.
The York Feminist Network, a York city feminist group not connected to the University, began a petition calling on City of York Council to reject the application for renewal of licence from the club.
The petition stated: “Lap dancing clubs have no place in our community. They promote sexist stereotypes, create ‘no go’ areas for women and local residents, and impact negatively on the character and reputation of York as a welcoming, family-friendly city.”
In a quote on the YFN’s blog, Tony, a Skeldergate local, said of Micklegate: “It is sadly unsurprising on any given evening to hear them [young men] wolf whistling, leering and even see them masturbating in the streets.”
One respondent to the petition said: “I think lap dancing clubs send out the message that it’s perfectly acceptable for women to be dehumanised and objectified.”
The YFN also cited the venue’s proximity to premises of ‘sensitive use’, such as churches, several nurseries and organisations working with vulnerable people such as the nearby York Women’s Counselling Service.
They also claimed that the club made women feel threatened or uncomfortable.
Andrew Whitney, the owner of Upstairs, denied this, saying that the club was promoted in a discreet way and that closure would result in up to 40 dancers losing their jobs.
Feminist societies across the country responded to the petition, with the Edinburgh University Feminist Society denouncing the petition as “whorephobic”.
Upstairs’s 12 month licence was renewed 2 weeks ago by the council’s licensing committee. According to licensing manager Lesley Cooke none of the grounds for refusal were established.
YUSU Women’s Committee were divided on the issue, telling Nouse: “Within the YUSU Women’s network opinions are divided on the issues at play surrounding the lap dancing club remaining open. We are unaffiliated to York Feminist Network’s campaign.
“Although lap dancing clubs are in many ways problematic, we understand a need for feminist and women’s movements to respect the agency, opinion, safety and welfare of the women involved in the clubs.
“This is one of many areas which cannot be defined in polarized terms and the opinion of the YUSU Women’s Network as a whole acknowledges this.”
The YFN have confirmed their commitment to re-launching the campaign next year, saying: “We are confident that with time and more education on gender equality, and the harmful effects of sexual entertainment venues, the outdated views of the councillors will change.”
They also described their disappointment with the council’s decision and regretted that they had not joined councils such as Leeds and Oxford, which had “prioritised women’s safety and said no to the objectification of women – as advised by the Equality Act 2010”.