CamdenNewJournal

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Lap-dancers call for club facing rip-off claims to keep licence

SophistiCats strip venue denies any wrongdoing over customer’s £50,000 bill

30 January, 2020 — By Richard Osley

PERFORMERS at a lap-dancing club are urging councillors not to close the venue down after a police and trading standards investigation into claims that customers were charged thousands of pounds on their credit cards.

SophistiCats in Eversholt Street, Euston, is due to learn at a council meeting scheduled for tonight (Thursday) whether it can stay open after the Met Police called for its licence to be revoked.

In a legal submission, police said it was calling for a review hearing due to “repeated concerns”, adding: “Multiple customers have complained of the circumstances in which they have had large sums of money debited from their credit cards. Investigations into those allegations have revealed a pattern of concerning behaviour.”

In one case last February, a man contacted Camden’s licensers saying he had been billed £50,000 on his credit card.

“The police accessed the CCTV,” the Met statement said. “It makes for stark viewing: there are several moments at which the complainant appears to be extremely intoxicated. There is an especially troubling scene in which performers can be seen to manipulate the claimant into handing a credit card over.”

Officers said there had been other cases investigated at the Euston branch, and one in Soho, but there had been no prosecutions.

“The licensee has latched onto this as demonstrating that no action should be taken against them in course of this review. That is a mistake,” the Met said. “The fact that a prosecution was not deemed to be appropriate does not mean that matters of serious concern have not come to light.”

While Camden has a rule not to allow any more strip clubs to open in the borough, those that were already operating before this came into practice have been allowed to apply for their licences to be renewed each year.

The club – operating in the venue previously known as Secrets ­– denies any wrongdoing

. It said in a statement: “We take all allegations seriously and these claims have been independently investigated and rejected. “We operate two of London’s most popular nightclubs, which provide work for around 200 people. Our clubs are protected by nearly 100 CCTV cameras in each club.” It added: “We are happy to work with Camden Council to ensure that we continue to be compliant with all licensing regulations.

Meanwhile, 18 dancers are due to give written evidence or appear in person at tonight’s meeting.

A spokesperson for SophistiCats said: “The women strongly believe that they have a right to work in a safe environment like SophistiCats. “We trust that as progressive organisation, Camden Council will take their views into account. Many of the dancers have families to support, whilst others use their income to fund their full-time education.”

The case comes with Camden facing pressure from campaigners op­posed to the industry to take a tougher stance on lap-dancing clubs. They have suggested that performers need to be helped to exit so that they do not find themselves vulnerable and without an income.

Emma Ko, from the Women’s Equality Party, told a licensing meeting last year: “Ideally, we wouldn’t have any of these clubs, but at the same time we are really conscious of not wanting to put women out of jobs. “What we would like to do is work with Camden Council and talk to women’s organisations who have helped women exiting these industries with counselling and training op­portunities. We are talking about apprenticeships, so there is a viable option.”

The council is currently considering a new licensing policy which would move away from a standing presumption that existing licences should be renewed annually

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