Inner city residents today expressed relief after the licence application for Peter Stringfellow’s new lapdancing club was adjourned.
The British businessman is planning to open a club in Parnell Street in Dublin but he has encountered fierce opposition from locals who believe it will bring down the image and safety of the area.
The North Inner City Residents Group said they did not want the club in an area which had a girl’s secondary school, a toy shop, a cinema and corporation flats for young children.
“The residents are not only appalled but we are fearful of how this proposed establishment will affect the area, which is residential and has lots of children,” said spokeswoman Maria Mhic Mheanmain.
At the Richmond District Court, Judge Mary Collins heard from Stringfellow’s lawyer that there were a number of licensing issues to deal with and that the hearing would last for up to two hours.
She adjourned the case for mention until January 4.
Stringfellow is looking for a dance licence for the club, which will be spread across three floors and will be far larger than the five existing lapdancing clubs already operating in Dublin.
Mrs Mhic Mheanmain spoke outside the court with three generations of her family, her grandmother Maire, her husband Manus and her four-and-a-half-month-old daughter.
She said the north inner city area around Parnell Street had been very disenfranchised in the past with high unemployment and a major drugs problem.
“But since that, there has been huge regeneration of the area and it really is an up-and-coming area. I feel, particularly from international evidence, that the establishment of a lapdancing club will only serve to bring the area down even further.”
Mr Stringfellow has insisted that his lapdancing club will gentrify the area and has said that residents should accept his international reputation.
“I think it was an outrageously classist, elitist and downright snobbish statement to make and I think Peter Stringfellow knows full well it will bring down the area and I think it’s very interesting that he chose a working class area, as opposed to (somewhere else like) Foxrock, to have his establishment,” said Mrs Mhic Mheanmain.
The residents’ campaign is being supported by Ruhama, a group which works with the victims of prostitution. Spokeswoman Geraldine Rowley, who was present in court, said she was concerned that Stringfellow’s club would act as a breeding ground for prostitution and sex trafficking.
“We still have our concerns as a project that works with women who are exploited. We have concerns at the proliferation of lapdancing clubs in Ireland, and such a big premises as Stringfellows that would be opening not alone in a residential area but that it would be promoting the commodification of women’s bodies and the selling of women’s bodies as entertainment,” she said.
Ms Rowley said her group had evidence that non-national women were being trafficked into Ireland to work in the sex trade and had dealt with more than 70 in the last year.
“From our experience of working with women on the ground, we know the impact on women and the harm it causes them to be seen as an object. Often women have to numb themselves psychologically, or numb themselves through drugs.”
She said most of the women working in the lapdancing industry were from very poor socio-economic backgrounds.
“It may be promoted as innocent fun, and Stringfellow seems to be using the language that it is professional and high class. But who is it high class for?
“Is it for the multi-millionaires who have made their living on this form of entertainment?”
Local Labour Party councillor Emer Costello said she and her colleagues on Dublin’s City Council were totally opposed to the club.
“It is not something we want to see coming into Parnell Street, with the kind of regeneration we have,” she said.
She added that she understood the Gardaí would also be objecting to the club’s licence application at the next hearing of the case.