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Sex Establishment Licensing Policy

A licence is required if it is intended to use any premises, vehicle or vessel or stall as a sex establishment. This requirement does not apply where the Council has waived the requirement for a licence, nor to the sale, supply or demonstration of articles which are manufactured for use primarily for the purposes of birth control or primarily relate to birth control.

You must apply to the Council for a sex establishment licence, or if you want the Council to waive the requirement for such a licence.

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It is an offence not to comply with the requirement to obtain a licence, the penalty for which on summary conviction is a fine of any amount.


The three types of sex establishments are defined as a “sex cinema”, “sex shop” or "sexual entertainment venue".

Sex cinemas are defined as any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used to a significant degree for the exhibition of moving pictures, by whatever means produced, which –

(a) are concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deal with or relate to, or are intended to stimulate or encourage –

(i) sexual activity; or

(ii) acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity; or

(b) are concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deal with or relate to, genital organs or urinary or excretory functions,

but does not include a dwelling-house to which the public is not admitted.

Sex shops are defined as any premises, vehicle or vessel or stall used for a business which consists to a significant degree of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating

(a) sex articles; or

(b) other things intended for use in connection with, or for the purpose of stimulating or encouraging sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity.

Sex article is defined as

(a) anything made for use in connection with, or for the purpose of stimulating or encouraging sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity; or

(b) anything to which the following sub-paragraph applies

This sub-paragraph applies to (i) any article containing embodying matter to be read or looked at or anything intended to be used, either alone or as one of a set, for the reproduction or manufacture of any such article and (ii) any recording of vision or sounds which is concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deals with or relates to stimulate or encourage, sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity or is concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deals with or relates to, genital organs, or urinary or excretory functions.

Cornwall Council believes that internet providers of the above also fall within the definition of a sex establishment.

Sexual entertainment venues are defined as any premises at which relevant entertainment is provided before a live audience for the financial gain of the organiser or the entertainer. 

“relevant entertainment” means—

(a) any live performance; or

(b) any live display of nudity;

 which is of such a nature that, ignoring financial gain, it must reasonably be assumed to be provided solely or principally for the purpose of sexually stimulating any member of the audience (whether by verbal or other means).

Apply for a Sex Shop and Cinema licence

Alternatively you can download an application form using the link below. The application form can be used for grant, transfer, renewal and variation applications. All applications must be copied by the applicant to the Police within 7 days after the date the application was made.

You must provide the applicant name, address and, where the applicant is an individual, their age, plus the premises address.

Applicants are recommended to read the Sex Establishment Licensing Policy before making an application.

Applicants must also give public notice of the application by publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper. This must be published within 7 days of making the application. If the application relates to a premises then there is an additional requirement for notice of the application to be displayed for 21 days on or near the premises where it can be conveniently read by the public. The notice, the form of which is prescribed by the Council, must contain certain information.

Members of the public can object to a sex establishment application. The objection must be made in writing and sent to the Council within 28 days after the date of the application. The letter must state the reasons for the objection. The Council will consider objections made when making a decision.

The Council must inform the applicant when objections are received, and provide details of the reasons for objections. However we will not give out the names and addresses of people who object, unless they give their consent.

Please view the current licensing fees and charges to find out how much you will need to pay.

Tacit authorisation does not apply to new grant applications for sex establishment licences in the interests of public safety. This means you must wait for the Council to determine your application before you can operate a sex establishment.

If you are applying to renew a sex establishment licence, you can continue to operate past the licence expiry date, provided that you submit your renewal application before the licence expires. The Council will notify you of the decision.

A licence cannot be granted to:

  • a person under the age of 18;
  • a person who is for the time being disqualified from holding a licence following revocation of such a licence; or
  • a person who had, within a period of 12 months immediately preceding the date when the application was made, refused the grant or renewal of a licence for the premises, vehicle, vessel or stall in respect of which the application is made, unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal.

If none of the above applies to the applicant then the application together with any objections will be referred to the relevant committee of the Council for a hearing of the application. The Council may refuse an application for the grant of a licence on one or more of the following grounds :

  • that the applicant is unsuitable to hold the licence by reason of having been convicted of an offence or for any other reason
  • that if the licence were to be granted, the business to which it relates would be managed by or carried on for the benefit of a person, other than the applicant, who would be refused the grant of such a licence if he made the application himself
  • that the number of sex establishments in the relevant locality at the time the application is made is equal to or exceeds the number which the authority consider is appropriate for that locality;
  • that the grant or renewal of the licence would be inappropriate, having regard to the character of the relevant locality or to the use to which any premises in the vicinity of the premises, vehicle or vessel or stall in respect of which the application is made.

When issuing a Sex Establishment Licence the Council is permitted to issue it on such terms and conditions and subject to restrictions as specified at time the licence is issued.

In addition to this Cornwall Council has adopted standard conditions applicable to all licences for sex establishments:

It is an offence to breach the conditions and the penalty for this is a fine of any amount.

Please refer to the Sex Establishment Licensing Policy or contact your local licensing office for more information.

If an application is refused following a hearing of the application then the applicant will be informed of the decision, the reasons for it and the right of appeal.

Appeals must be made to the local magistrates court within 21 days, starting from the date the applicant is notified of the Council's decision.

Applicants can appeal against the refusal of a new grant, variation and transfer applications, or against the decision to revoke a licence. They can also appeal against conditions or restrictions imposed.

Please note that you cannot appeal against the Council's decision if the application was refused on the grounds that:

  • the number of sex establishments in the area exceeds the number which the authority consider 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

The magistrates court will determine the appeal application. If you do not agree with the decision made by the magistrates court, you can appeal to the local crown court. The decision made by the crown court will be final.

The Council must give effect to a decision made by the magistrates.

On 11 January 2011 at a meeting of the full council, Cornwall Council adopted its Sex Establishment Licensing Policy which gives more information about changes to the licensing of sex establishments.

Sex Shops and Sex Cinemas had been regulated in Cornwall for some time, however, on 6 April 2010 the Policing and Crime Act 2009 extended this power to include a new class of premises, namely Sexual Entertainment Venues.

The Council adopted the legislation to regulate Sexual Entertainment Venues and took opportunity to review existing policies and create a new single policy to apply to the whole of Cornwall, which incorporates the new class of sex establishment as well as those previously regulated.

Cornwall Council conducted a consultation on its draft Sex Establishment Licensing Policy, which includes guidance and standard conditions, between 28 July and 20 October 2010. You can follow the link for further information on the consultation process including a list of consultees and public forums held.

The consultation period ended on 20 October 2010.  All responses received were collated and presented to the Miscellaneous Licensing Committee for consideration on Wednesday 10 November 2010.  You can view the consulation responses which were taken into consideration at the meeting by clicking the following links:

The following responses were received but were not considered as they are not relevant to the policy conditions or numerical limits.

You can view a database of consultation responses to see comments made on the responses and action taken in relation to the policy.  Following consideration of the consultation responses, the Miscellaneous Licensing Committee agreed on the final draft of the Sex Establishment Licensing Policy.  This was approved and adopted at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday 11 January 2011, and the policy took immediate effect.

It is an offence to employ a person who is disqualified from holding a licence, the penalty for this on summary conviction is a fine of any amount. The same penalty applies for an offence of allowing someone under 18 to enter the establishment or be employed at the establishment.

Please contact licensing services if you wish to discuss an application, decision or existing licence.

If you have a problem with a sex establishment, we recommend you contact the premises directly to try to resolve the dispute. If this is not successful then licensing services may be able to help or have a look on the Citizens Advice consumer service website, or contact the UK European Consumer Centre if you live outside the UK.