City centre sex shop gains licence extension despite charity concerns

A family-run sex shop in Liverpool city centre will continue to trade for at least another year despite objections from a neighbouring youth charity.

During a tense licensing committee, the team behind Scandals on Hanover Street secured a renewal of their terms to trade for 12 months.

It is the third store owned and operated by couple Ben Hughes and Catherine Kershaw having opened businesses in Birkenhead and Bootle.

The pair faced opposition from the next door Merseyside Youth Association (MYA) in their bid, with chief executive Gill Bainbridge telling the Liverpool Council session the location is “inappropriate” and “just needs to be somewhere else”.

The application by Scandals had not sought to make any changes to its current agreement with Liverpool Council – namely to open from 9am to 10pm Monday to Saturday and from 10am to 6pm on Sundays and Bank Holidays. The business is located in the basement of the Bling Building at 69 Hanover Street.

According to the council’s own assessment of the shop, the basement and its contents are not deemed visible to passing footfall at street level. However, an issue was raised by MYA and Mrs Bainbridge about the store working with an entertainer outside the shop during last year’s Eurovision song contest.

MYA said this was advertising the shop and in breach of its terms and conditions.

In response, the business owners said the entertainer had a “five-hour presence” on one occasion during what they described as “the gayest time of year.” They said the entertainer, Barbie Pink, had not advocated for the shop during this time and was handing out goodie bags advocating safe sex.

Ms Kershaw said she had thought this would be permitted without seeking clarification from council officials. Merseyside Police made no comments or objections to the renewal application.

Mrs Bainbridge said, “I acknowledge that you’ve got a really good business, a market and a place within it. I’ve got no problem with that or its right to exist.

“My objection, purely and simply, is that it is next door. It feels, as a youth worker for over 30 years, like it’s in an incongruent place, it’s inappropriately next to it.”

Mrs Bainbridge said that if the council felt it would not be appropriate to put the business next to a school, “it’s not for us either” as they were working with the same children. The charity boss also said “mixed messages” came from the staging of a Christmas grotto event last year and the possibility of families thinking it was appropriate for young people.

She said some service users “haven’t been happy with it since it opened” while partner organisations had expressed concerns but stopped short of filing a formal complaint. Mrs Bainbridge said, “It just needs to be somewhere else.”

Karl Bruder, on behalf of Mr Hughes and Ms Kershaw, said, “If you look hard enough, you’ll find issues with everything” and said there had been “nothing adverse” in the business’ first 12 months in the area. He added how Scandals had “wanted to integrate within the community and they’ve done that”.

In granting permission for the licence to continue for a further 12 months, the committee imposed the condition that under no circumstances should an individual be permitted to direct members of the public to the shop. Additionally, the business may not use the pavement outside or the inner lobby to promote its offering.

Image: GOOGLE

Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Twitter, and Threads? You can also send story ideas or letters to the editor to news@birkenhead.news