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:
Here we go again, turned down in Derry, no surprise there then!! We were turned down on relevant locality, which is a farce.
In Waterloo 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 ฃ3000 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 choose.
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 wages.
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 interference.
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 of power.
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 corrupting influence.
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 พ mile from the shop. We would dispute what effects, if any, this shop would have on these particular residents.
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 sponsored events.
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 area.
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 sell.
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.