Objections as Soho theatre applies for sexual entertainment licence

By Julia Gregory, Local Democracy Reporter

Residents living near a Soho theatre say they fear a rise in nuisance and crime if it is given a new sexual entertainment licence.

Boulevard Theatre Company Limited applied for the licence, which would allow it to stage burlesque, nude performances, plays and adult-related theatrical performances.

The Boulevard has asked for the licence to run between 10am and 1am Mondays to Saturdays and from 10am until 10.30pm on Sundays at the theatre in Walkers Court, off Brewer Street.

The theatre opened last year at its new home at Walkers Court and stages a range of plays.

The original Boulevard was a sister to the Raymond Revuebar. It later became Elle et Lui theatre and, after that reopened, as the standalone Boulevard Theatre.

It staged erotica, stand-up and plays and was the home of the Comic Strip in the 1980s which helped launch the careers of Jennifer Saunders, Adrian Edmondson, Dawn French, Rik Mayall and Alexei Sayle.

The police and Westminster city council’s environmental health department objected to the application.

One anonymous nearby resident told the council the licence “would be unsuitable given the tone of the recently-regenerated Berwick Street area”.

Another resident feared that if the licence is granted there would be “greater criminal activities, bringing further disorder, noise and public nuisance”.

The Boulevard had a sexual entertainment venue licence between 2012 and 2018, when it expired.

Along with the new licence it has applied for a renewal of the previous one.

A report for the licensing committee said the historic Soho pedestrian street has “been vastly improved” recently “with the closure of two nightclubs, a sex cinema and a hostess bar”.

If the licence is approved the theatre will have to ensure outside windows are opaque while the “relevant entertainment takes place”.

However one resident wrote to the council saying: “As neighbours we are worried that on dispersal, such audiences are more likely to be in a loud, defiant, transgressive mood – boisterous, and trouble-seeking. This will attract the criminal element.”

They said they were worried that it could “bring disorder, noise and public nuisance to the neighbourhood”.

Another objector, who has not been named, told the council a sexual entertainment licence would be “inappropriate and unsuitable” as it is close to the Islamic Centre and mosque where “worshippers prostrate themselves on the cobbles of Berwick Street” on Fridays, and is just yards from the City Gates evangelical church.

A spokeswoman from Soho Estates, for the theatre, said: “The Boulevard Theatre has recently opened to massive critical acclaim. Some of our plays (as is not uncommon in the West End) may include an element of nudity. For that, we may require a licence.

“The theatre is located in the iconic Walkers Court, which has a long history of this type of cabaret entertainment, including Madame JoJo’s, which itself will re-open in 2021.”

Westminster council’s licensing committee is set to consider the request on Thursday evening.

Pictured top is Walkers Court, off Brewer Street in Soho

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