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Whitechapel’s Nags Head strip club loses licence

The Nags Head, one of the East End’s oldest strip clubs whose name dates back over two hundred years, loses its licence for breaching Council rules for sexual entertainment venues. 

Long known for its famous strip clubs including Browns and Metropolis, one of the East End’s oldest strip clubs, The Nags Head in Whitechapel is to close after losing its licence for breaching the Council’s no-touching rule for sexual entertainment venues. 

It follows Ye Olde Axe strip club on Hackney Road which lost its sexual entertainment licence last year for breaking Covid rules. 

The Nags Head’s licence was taken away after an investigation involving two undercover inspectors, known as officer A and officer B, who were sent in to pay for multiple lap dances on Friday 18 August 2022.  

Upon entering the club and paying a £3 fee to get in, Officer A paid £20 for a private dance from one of the workers which lasted five minutes. He then paid an extra £240 for a 30-minute VIP dance and drink.

The inspectors reported witnessing performers touching themselves intimately and offering that the inspectors could also do so. 

Officer B entered the club at the same time as Officer A and also paid a £3 entrance fee before paying for a private dance for £20. He said: “I had a double performance with [Officer A] in the same room with his dancer. The dancer made contact with me on my lap. The security did check on us through the beaded curtains but was outside of it most of the time.”

He then had a VIP dance which also cost £240 and included a drink for both of them. Officer B said the dancer made “a fair amount of contact” with him and pressed herself into his face and touched his neck and ear.

After the inspection the licensing authority applied for a revocation of the club’s sexual entertainment venue licence because dancers had breached two conditions which were:

  • Under the council’s rules for sexual entertainment venues, there must be no intentional physical contact between performers and punters other than the transfer of money or token at the start, during or the end of a dance.
  • Dancers are also forbidden from performing sexual acts or the “simulation of acts of personal stimulation” and are not allowed to make physical contact with other dancers such as touching each other’s breasts or genitalia with their bodies or with objects.

During a meeting with the council’s licensing sub-committee last week (Tuesday, September 26), members heard from Philip Kolvin KC, who was speaking on behalf of Manpal Singh Clair, licence holder for the Nags Head.

Mr Kolvin said: “My client frankly admits the breaches that you’ve seen, [he] has worked with Tower Hamlets to produce a schedule of breaches, there’s nothing between us about the breaches, or the seriousness of the breaches or the reasons for having the rules.”

He went on to say that there are “daily briefings” for performers which included reinforcing the no touching rule and that signs are displayed in the changing rooms to remind dancers. Customers who enter the club are also informed of the rule by security as they make their way in. Mr Kolvin added: “Those particular dancers chose to engage in non-compliant behaviour which was not being in engaged in by the majority.”

The sub-committee also heard representations from the Met Police, who were at the meeting to speak out against a renewal of the licence that had been submitted by the Nags Head. James Rankin, who was speaking on behalf of the Met, said: “It doesn’t matter how many people were compliant with the dancing if you’ve got dancers behaving in the way that they were, unchecked, unmonitored and unregulated, then you can produce as many schedules as you wish showing compliance with dancing… it’s the non-compliance that we are concerned with.”

He went on to say: “What message does it send out if you renew this licence? If you don’t revoke it? That in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, it doesn’t matter if you breach your licence, all you have to do is come back before the committee and say. ‘look we’re frankly sorry and here’s some paper’.”

The club’s renewal application had received two letters of support from customers, with one arguing there had “never been any trouble” while another person said it would be a “real shame” if it was to close. A customer known only as Adam, said: “I have frequented the Nags Head for many years and it is one of the only places that I will go for a drink whilst in the area. I travel from Devon with work and have visited every time that I’m in London.”

Stephen, who has been visiting the Nags Head for the last 15 years, said: “I think it would be a real shame if the Nags Head [wasn’t to] get another licence and was forced to close down. I think it would put at least 20 people out of work and that means they would have to find another job in these difficult times. The venue would likely become yet another pub and probably would have more trouble over the course of time.”

However, Mr Rankin had blasted Mr Clair’s claims that the August 2022 incident was “unique” citing a 2017 incident where dancers had made “repeated intentional sexual contact” with two police officers while they were carrying out test purchases for the council.

He said: “So the question now is this, what should be done and we say this, that it cannot be the case that you can run the premises as badly as you did in 2017 and be given a chance, be given a lifeline and then do precisely the same thing on August 18, 2022?”

The sub-committee also noted that at the time of applying for revocation of the licence in May 2023, licensing officer Mohshin Ali discovered similar problems were happening at Vanity Bar and Nightclub in Westminster, which was also owned by Mr Clair.

The club had its sexual entertainment venue licence taken away at the end of May after Westminster City Council said it had lost confidence in Mr Clair as the no touching rule had also been breached by customers who were “touching the dancers’ private parts and kissing” them.

The sub-committee revoked the licence because they had already given the Nags Head a chance in 2017 and were promised no more problems would occur in the future. They were also worried at what would happen “once the spotlight shifts away and the immediate risk to the licence is over” and doubted Mr Clair could uphold the sexual entertainment venue licence. By extension the application to renew the licence was rejected.

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