Sex establishment licence

Service information

To run a sex shop - i.e. any premises selling sex toys, books or videos - you may need a licence from the local authority.

To run a venue where explicit films are shown to members of the public, you also need a licence from the local authority.

You may apply to the local authority requesting them to waive the requirement of a licence.

Sexual entertainment venues

For details on the application criteria please read the sexual entertainment venues policy

The licence fee for a sexual entertainment venue has been set at the same fee as a sex shop/sex cinema licence.

Eligibility criteria

An applicant:

  • must be at least 18 years old;
  • must not be disqualified from holding a licence;
  • must have been resident in the UK at least six months immediately before the application or, if a body corporate, must be incorporated in the UK;
  • must not have been refused the grant or renewal of a licence for the premises in question within the last 12 months unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal.

Application evaluation process

The first thing you must do is to complete an application form. Before completing the application form, we would strongly advise you to make yourself aware of the conditions under which a licence can be refused.

When you are happy to proceed with the application form, take a photocopy. You must:

  • send the original application form to the licensing section;
  • send a photocopy of the form to the police;
  • advertise your application in the local newspaper.

The licensing section will carry out a full consultation with anyone who could be affected by your business. Following the consultation, the licensing section will prepare a report for the licensing committee.

The licensing committee will determine your application and consider any supporting evidence presented by yourself and the licensing section. Following the meeting you will be informed in writing of the outcome.

Under the Local government (Miscellaneous provisions) act 1982, there are a number of circumstances where an application would not be granted:

  • if the applicant is unsuitable to hold a licence by reason of having been convicted of an offence or for any other reason.
  • if the licence were to be granted, the business to which it relates would be managed by or carried on for the benefit of a person other than the applicant, who would be refused the grant of such a licence if they made the application themselves.
  • that the number of sex establishments in the relevant locality is equal to or exceeds the number which the Authority considers is appropriate for that locality.
  • that the granting of the licence would be inappropriate, with regard to the character of the relevant locality or the use to which any premises in the vicinity are put or the layout, character or condition of the premises.

You are advised to contact the licensing section to obtain a full list of possible reasons under which a licence may not be granted.

You have the right of appeal and must apply in writing to the magistrate's court within 21 days of receipt of the decision. At this stage you are advised to seek independent legal advice.

A licence for a sex/adult shop is valid for 12 months - you must reapply for a licence prior to the expiry of the licence. It should be noted that the procedure for renewal of a licence is the same procedure that must be followed for a new application.

During the period that your licence is valid you may be inspected by a health and safety and/or licensing officers. The officers will make sure you are abiding by the condition under which your licence was granted and also ensure you are meeting the legal requirements.

Fees will be payable for applications and conditions may be attached.

Applications must contain any information the local authority requires, as well as the applicant's name, address, and where the applicant is an individual, their age, plus the address of the premises.

Applicants must give public notice of their application by publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper.

It is in the public interest that we must process your application before it can be granted. If you have not heard from us within a reasonable period, please contact us or do this online if you applied through the UK Welcomes service.

Apply online

Failed applications

Please contact us in the first instance.

Any applicant who is refused a licence, or refused the renewal of a licence, may, within 21 days of being notified of the refusal, appeal to the local magistrates' court.

However, the right to appeal does not apply where the licence was refused on the grounds that the number of sex establishments in the area exceeds the number which the authority considers appropriate or where the grant of the licence would be inappropriate considering the character of the area, the nature of other premises in the area, or the premises themselves

Licence holder redress

Please contact your local authority in the first instance.

A licence holder who wishes to appeal against a condition can appeal to a local magistrates' court. In Scotland licence holder who wishes to appeal against a condition can appeal to the local sheriff.

Consumer complaint

We would always advise that in the event of a complaint the first contact is made with the trader by you - preferably in the form a letter (with proof of delivery). If that has not worked, if you are located in the UK,  Citizens Advice service will give you advice. From outside the UK contact the UK European Consumer Centre.

Licence holders may at any time apply to the authority for a variation of the terms, conditions or restrictions in their licence.

If an application for a variation is refused, or if the licence is revoked, the licence holder may, within 21 days of being notified of the imposition of, or the refusal to vary, the term, condition or restriction in question, or of the revocation, appeal to the local magistrates' court.

A licence holder may also appeal to the crown court against a decision sofa magistrates' court.

Other objections

Any person objecting to an application for the grant, renewal or transfer of a licence may give written notice of their objection to the relevant authority, stating the grounds of the objection, within 28 days of the date of the application.

Contact details

Mail Licensing Service, Davyfield Depot, White Dove Building, Roman Road Industrial Estate, Blackburn BB1 2LX
Phone Number(s) 01254 267666
Fax Number(s)  
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