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Belfast Council rejects bid for two sex shops in city centre

By Rebecca Black

Belfast City Council has said no to licensed sex shops on a city centre street.

There are currently four such establishments which operate without a licence in the Gresham Street area, including MissBehavin. However the council has never granted a sex shop licence.

Only one sex shop has ever been licensed in Northern Ireland - by Newtownabbey Council for a premises in an industrial estate in Mallusk.

Two businessmen have submitted applications to Belfast City council for a licence to run separate sex shops on Gresham Street.

Brian Hope and Steven Robinson did so earlier this year.

The licensing committee heard last month that Gresham Street is located within the city's primary retail core, and that it is home to a licensed premises, a butcher's and a children's clothing shop.

It also heard that the street is included in a number of renovation initiatives. The committee heard from business owners opposed to the sex shop licences. Mr F MacElhatton speaking for the Smithfield and Union organisation said a petition against sex shops had been signed by 862 traders and customers.

He told the committee that the licensing of sex shops on Gresham Street would "detract from the positive work which had been undertaken in that area, inhibit future regeneration and reduce the number of visitors".

Mr MacElhatton also pointed out the area is close to major retail areas such as Castle Court shopping centre and Royal Avenue, and that it contains some of the city's oldest buildings.

Mr Robinson and Mr Hope also gave evidence to the committee meeting. Mr Robinson said that attitudes in Belfast towards sex shops have changed in recent years, and pointed out the neither the PSNI, nor local churches had objected to his application.

Enforcement action has been taken against both applicants over operating sex shops without a licence. The committee agreed that the "appropriate number of sex establishments in the Gresham Street locality remain as nil", and that the applications be considered at a future meeting.

This recommendation of that committee meeting was passed at last night's council meeting without comment.

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