Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spearmint Rhino Could Be Shut over 'Prostitution'; POLICE TELL COURT THEY WERE OFFERED DRUGS AND SEX AT LAP-DANCING CLUB

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Spearmint Rhino Could Be Shut over 'Prostitution'; POLICE TELL COURT THEY WERE OFFERED DRUGS AND SEX AT LAP-DANCING CLUB

Article excerpt

Byline: ANDR PAINE

LAP-DANCE club Spearmint Rhino may be forced to shut down following police claims that it is being used as a front for prostitution.

The lap-dancing chain's flagship branch on Tottenham Court Road could have its drinks licence and special late licence revoked following surveillance by undercover officers from the Met's Clubs and Vice Unit.

Highbury magistrates have been told that officers witnessed "dirty dancing" that was "tawdry and depressing". Girls made offers of one-on-one dancing at u1,000 an hour with the "intonation of prostitution" and offers of drugs, including cocaine. Without its various licences, the club would find it difficult to continue profitably.

Magistrates were told how police and Camden council officials undertook a string of organised visits to the club between March 2001 and February 2002 and then four undercover visits between February and July 2002.

In extracts of statements given by officers, Gerald Gouriet, for the Met, told the court how naked dancers "straddled seated male customers" and "simulated having sex on their groins". They also touched themselves and fondled men.

All this, he said, was in breach of the club's public entertainment licence and went against assurances given by the club to the police and council as to what would happen on its premises.

Mr Gouriet said the club's licensees, Philip Whitehouse, Simon Warr and Kenny Favel, were "not fit and proper people to hold the licence".

The Tottenham Court Road Spearmint Rhino was granted a sixmonth probationary licence in October 2000 and opened the following month. But in February 2001 there were already police concerns about the dancers, Mr Gouriet said.

"In the dawning months of the life of Spearmint Rhino, Tottenham Court Road, there were problems concerning the dancers' conduct," he said. "For example, one customer had a dancer standing close to him between his legs. She had hold of his right hand and was moving it up and down on her groin area. You could see his fingers stroking the inside of her thigh.

"In another case, a girl was straddling a male who was seated. The woman was vigorously grinding back and forth and the male was pressing his groin against her naked groin in simulated sex. Often girls' nipples are placed into the customer's mouth. …

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