The owner of a sex shop in Derry has vowed to go to the European Court to be
allowed to continue selling adult products in the city. Ian Brown promised
to drag Derry City Council through the legal system after he was refused a
licence in autumn of 2004 for his premises in Waterloo Street. The shop is
now facing closure after local councillors dismissed Brown's application on
the grounds that his shop was in an inappropriate location.
Ian Brown has
his say on The Melon Farmers
we go again, turned down in Derry, no surprise there then!! We were turned
down on relevant locality, which is a farce.
Street are two pubs,1 club, 1 bookies, two derelict buildings, a tanning
studio, a mans barbers, a hairdressers, a trendy indie record shop,
florists, independant record shop, bike shop and an Irish tourist shop,it is
at least three streets away from the main shopping area of Derry 500 yards
from a chuch 500 yards from any school on a partially pedestrianised area.
We were and are trading for the last 36 months and this
turn down was expected, even though we presented a signed petition from the
traders in the street, showing no objection at worst, and at best, some of
the traders saying we were needed as foot-fall has increased in the street
and their trade has gone up.
The council still felt there was reason to turn this
application down , again leaving no licence available in the whole of
N.Ireland (still part of the UK), How long will this go on?
How long must I fight the system to allow adults the
right of freedom of choice in their own town, how long will councils act as
the censors of the censors?.
I believe my fight is justified and right, I should be
allowed to sell legal highstreet products legally in this country to an
adult population with the right to make their own decisions.
The fight goes on....................
Approximately two and a half years ago Fantasy at
10 Waterloo Street was opened.
Before we opened, we talked to the P.S.N.I. at Strand
Road to ascertain if we were trading in any way illegally and, as explained,
due to the fact that Derry council had never adopted the Misc. Provision
order 1984/85 in relation to licensing of Sex Establishments, we were
in-fact breaking no laws.
Until the council brought in the order this would
continue. Up to and until the actual hearing of an application, we could
continue to trade legally in the eyes of the law.
Derry Council put the legislation in place during summer
2002 and after making an application and fulfilling all the various criteria
for same, including lodging ?3000 with the application, we are now in Nov
2004 hearing the application.
We opened the shop in good faith with comments from
trading standards chiefs implying that the way to trade legally in N.I. was
with a licence available in this country under U.K. legislation, with the
final decision being made at council level.
As R18 DVD's/Videos are a legal classification in this
country, it was assumed that a local council, given the authority to
licence, would use this opportunity wisely.
It is our opinion that it is in the best interests of
the council to remove, or at least diminish, the underground sale of
unclassified, counterfeit and illegal material whilst providing a legal,
controllable and legitimate outlet for the sale of adult material to the
consenting adult population of this city who can exercise their freedom to
We further believe that it would be in the interests of
the elected representatives of the council, to protect the community from
the indiscriminate, under-the-counter sales of adult material to anyone,
including minors, who have the money to buy this material. Furthermore this
revenue would find its way into many and various pockets without any of the
government agencies receiving a penny: Derry City through rates and licence
fee; Customs and Excise through Vat and Inland Revenue through salary and
We think the Council should take these considerations
into account when making a responsible decision.
THE GENERAL PUBLIC
The issue of the adult shop in Waterloo Street, we
believe, should also be clarified.
The main contention is the sale of R18 DVD /Video under
licence to the general public.
We contend the adult public covering male, female,
couples , singles, gay, straight, have the right of choice and they should
be offered their right of choice as in the rest of the UK.
We fully appreciate not everyone likes what we sell and
we understand that the products to some people are offensive. However, they
are no more offensive than red meat to some vegetarians or cigarettes to
some reformed smokers. This should not stop people having access to these
products in a suitably controlled environment.
We believe most strongly in this day and age that people
are entitled to the right of choice, and people are responsible enough to
exercise that choice. If someone doesn't like a TV programme, it can be
turned off. If someone disapproves of alcohol, they will not go into a pub.
If someone doesn't like what we sell, they won't come in.
Now, more than ever, with both satellite and terrestrial
television reducing their censorship criteria, the argument for not
licensing our store becomes weaker.
We agree wholeheartedly with advising and protecting
those that need it but we balance that with a belief in allowing the rest to
have their rights of choice and go about their personal life without any
These products have already been censored by our
government and passed suitable for resale. For a council to vote no for no
other reason than personal taste is, in our opinion, an incorrect exercise
Let me address some of the other issues.
We fully understand the protection of the innocents and
I personally have spoken out many times about this in the media. It troubles
me that I should have to reference sex and children in the same sentence but
it is a link that is often mentioned.
Let me make our position absolutely clear. Our shop and
our products are for over 18s only. This is a policy we strictly enforce. We
will not serve anyone we suspect of being underage.
We find it troubling that the first line of argument
presented by churches against our store often makes reference to children.
We have nothing to sell to children, are not interested in doing so and
certainly have no products that in any way could be construed as a
Additionally, it should be noted, there are no papers,
surveys, or any substantiated reports claiming adult shops are the cause of
any undesired activity. We also point out there is no evidence of sex
attacks in the Waterloo Area having increased since the opening of the shop
those many years ago.
We believe the Council should give a lot of thought to
avoid falling into the trap of being perceived as a secondary censor. We
would remind the Council that even before an application was made, Channel 9
news, Foyle Radio, Q102, the NW Telegraph, The Journal, Derry News, Foyle
News and Highland Radio covered the store opening - there were no individual
complaints lodged to Derry Council. Complaints only came about as a result
of some determined lobbying after the event. These complaints were centred
on objectors from the Pennyburn area, a full 3/4 mile from the shop. We
would dispute what effects, if any, this shop would have on these particular
In consideration of the admission of current objections,
we currently have a list of well over 16,000 individuals from the local area
who have welcomed the shop, purchased goods from the shop and have signed
our petition to keep the shop open.
We also have a letter from the traders in the area that
have no objection to the shop being open.
TRADE AND COMMERCE
The trader view should also be explored further.
Since opening, we can prove and offer supporting
evidence that additional business has come into the street, thus keeping
money in the city and Waterloo Street that may have travelled to other
cities or towns.
Our client base is many and varied.
As mentioned earlier we have shopping for hen and stag
nights, the wedding industry being one of the largest industries in NI.
We have tourist trade both Euro and Dollar.
We have a varied base of other clients including those
wanting to address problems in their sex life, where we can offer a wide
range of possibilities.
We provide adult toys and sex aids recommended by every
agony aunt in print.
We provide devices recommend by the medical trade to
those with various sexual dysfunctions.
We provide a number of different ranges of glamour wear,
bedroom wear and fun fancy dress.
We promote sexual wellbeing and safe sex with a full
range of condoms. We actively promote safe sex, both in the shop and at
Our customers represent the full spectrum of our
community, drawn from all backgrounds. They are normal, upstanding citizens
who are spending money in this city and are also coming from as far away as
Omagh, Sligo, Letterkenny, Buncrana, Strabane, Lifford, and from many other
areas too numerous to mention.
Recently a similar shop opened in Letterkenny. Some
might say, let everybody shop there. We are sure the public would
travel out of this city to do just that and whilst there spend money in
other Letterkenny retail outlets. Driving retail trade out of the city
rather than encourage it to increase is a disservice to our retailers.
Our staff, our suppliers for the shop such as painters,
printers, shop fitters, stationers, floorers, oil suppliers, electricians,
banks, electrical suppliers, alarm companies, newspaper advertising, radio
advertising all contribute to this business putting money back into the
local economy. All benefit financially from our presence.
We have always been actively involved with anything to
do with the quality of the shopping environment, indeed support any local
authority initiative to improve the area. We are always updating and
improving the appearance and layout of the shop. Council will note we have
changed the name of the shop from Fantasy to Bliss in order to present a
more generic face to the public.
Further to this, Council should note we have now opened
another shop in Waterloo Street. This business is unrelated to the business
under discussion but employs a further three part-time staff, provides
further revenue to the city and gives another reason for people to use this
We have an established party-plan business directly
related to the shop. This aspect of the business provides part-time
employment to eight individuals in the greater North West area and, by the
very nature of the party-plan, allows individuals to earn money who might
not have the chance to take up employment elsewhere.
We are in business because there is a demand for what we
We chose the location of the shop to fall inside the
guidelines of the Misc. Prov. order on relevant locality. We are not near a
church, school nor bus stops where children gather. Our impact on the street
and surrounding district has been minimal. We have brought jobs and revenue
to the city.
If there was no demand for our products there would be
no need for the shop. Our customers are normal people representing all
aspects of our community. We are experienced retailers who wish to service
that demand and operate our business in a responsible and open manner
I t is our opinion and, we believe, that of the many
people who shop with us that the adult population of this city should be
treated as such and allowed to exercise their own choice as to whether to
shop with us or not.