Belfast Telegraph

I want to earn a living legally: Belfast sex shop owner in licence plea

By Rebecca Black

The businessman behind an application to open Belfast's first licensed sex shop has urged councillors to back him.

Brian Hope (40) has been trading on Gresham Street for almost 20 years, but says he wants to be able to operate legitimately to clean up the industry.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Hope said he had financial backers in England that will allow him to open a three-storey business and potentially employ five staff.

But without a licence he is left trading illegitimately, along with four other non-licensed shops on the street.

This paper revealed yesterday that Mr Hope had applied for a licence to open his shop Miss Behavin' Ltd on Gresham Street.

Belfast City councillors are set for a special meeting in October to consider the application.

A previous application for the same shop – submitted by a different businessman – prompted a legal row that reached all the way to the House of Lords as the council battled to defend its decision to refuse the outlet a licence.

In 2003 the council refused a licence for Miss Behavin' and announced a total ban on sex shops in the Gresham Street area, saying they felt the city centre street, which is close to churches and family shops, was an "unacceptable" location.

The shop owner appealed this and the Court of Appeal ruled against the council. However, in 2007 five law lords overturned that judgment

Mr Hope took over Miss Behavin' Ltd in 2009 and is now pleading with councillors to back him, saying it will clean up the industry and allow them to regulate it properly.

He has even offered to relocate his premises to an industrial area, such as Duncrue or the Boucher Road.

Mr Hope currently trades as Gresham Books, selling erotic DVDs, magazines and accessories. The building has two upstairs floors which are currently empty, but will become Miss Behavin' if the licence is granted.

"I have been trading in the area in bookshops since 1997, my dad traded in second-hand books before me in Smithfield," he said.

"But that industry is dead now, so I looked around to move into something else.

"I just want to be able to make a living. I want to be able to have a legitimate business like the butcher across the road or the pub next door.

"At the minute I am paying rent for a mostly empty building."

Mr Hope will be putting across his case to councillors at the special meeting in October.

A meeting of the council's licensing committee last week heard that public notices of the application had been placed in three newspapers, and no objections had so far been received.

The PSNI has also raised no objections, according to the committee's minutes.

Currently only the SDLP has indicated it will back the licence.

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