Sex establishments are defined by schedule two of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

There are currently three categories of sex establishments which are:

  • Sex shops
    Premises which are used to sell, hire, exchange, lend, display or demonstrate sex articles or other things that are intended for use in connection with, or for, the purpose of stimulating or encouraging activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity
  • Sex cinemas
    Premises which are used to show films that are primarily for the portrayal of sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity with the intention of sexually stimulating customers
  • Sexual entertainment venues (SEVs)
    Premises which are used to provide sexual entertainment (for example lap dancing, peep show, live sex show or strip show) to a live audience, which can consist of one person, for the financial gain of the organiser or entertainer. Please see the 'Related downloads' section, below, for the policy which relates to such premises


Eligibility criteria

To apply, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Not be disqualified from holding a licence
  • Have been resident in a European Economic Area (EEA) state for at least six months immediately before the application or, if a body corporate, must be incorporated in a EEA state
  • Not have been refused the grant or renewal of a licence for the premises in question within the last 12 months (unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal)


Regulation summary

You can access a summary and the relevant legislation in the 'External links' below.


Application evaluation process

Applications may be submitted for the grant of a new licence as well as the variation (relating only to the terms, conditions or restrictions on a licence), renewal or transfer of an existing licence.

Applications must be in writing (including by electronic means) and must contain full details of all information that we ask for in order to be considered.

A copy of the application must be sent to the Chief Officer of Police.

Within seven days of submitting a completed application the applicant must publish a public notice in a local newspaper. A copy of the prescribed form of notice is available from the Related Downloads section below.

Any person wishing to object to a sex establishment application must do so in writing to the council no later than twenty eight days after the completed application has been submitted at the following address:

Licensing Section
Sunderland City Council
Jack Crawford House
Commercial Road
Sunderland
SR2 8QR

Or via email to licensing@sunderland.gov.uk

All applications for the grant or variation of a licence will be determined by the Regulatory Committee.

Applications for renewals and transfers will be determined by officers unless an objection to the application is received. In such cases the application will be referred to the Regulatory Committee.

When considering an application for a sex establishment licence the council may only consider the following criteria:

  • The suitability of the applicant
  • The location and situation of the premises in relation to other premises in the vicinity
  • Whether the number of sex establishments in that locality is equal to, or exceeds the number which the council considers appropriate for that area


Application fee

The application fee for an application relating to a sex shop or a sex cinema is £5767.12

The application fee for an application relating to a sexual entertainment venue is £2709.11


Will 'tacit consent' apply?

Tacit consent is not applicable in relation to applications for sex establishments as the council wishes to ensure that:

  • The location of the premises is suitable in relation to other premises in the vicinity
  • The number of sex establishments in that locality does not exceed the number which the council considers appropriate for that area

The council's target completion period for applications for sex establishments consent is 60 working days from the time when all documentation and fees have been submitted.

If you have not heard from us within this period, please contact us. You can do this online if you applied through the 'UK Welcomes business' service.


Apply online

You can apply for a licence for a sex establishment by using the links in the 'Do it online' section of this page.


Public register

There is no requirement for the council to maintain a public register of sex establishment licences.


Failed application redress

Please contact us in the first instance.

If you are refused a licence, or refused the renewal of a licence, or wish to appeal against a condition added to your licence, you may appeal to the local Magistrates' court. You must do this within 21 days of being notified of the council's decision.

However, there is no right to appeal where the licence was refused on the grounds that:

  • The number of sex establishments in the area exceeds the number which the council considers is appropriate; or
  • The grant of the licence would be inappropriate considering the character of the area, the nature of other premises in the area, or the premises themselves


Consumer complaint

Please contact us in the first instance.