Citing Online Competition, U.K. Sex Shop Wants License Fee Cut

Tod Hunter
CARLISLE, England — The only sex shop in this northern England town is petitioning the city council to cut its license fee to enable it to compete with Internet retailers.

The Private Shop has to pay $22,921 annually for a “sex establishment license," and the store representatives have said that is too high, especially with websites selling sex toys and DVDs putting brick and mortar sex shops out of business.

The city council meets on Wednesday and is expected to halve the fee. The license fee was set at $1,726 in 1989, raised to $12,084 in 1990 and is raised annually to keep in line with inflation.

A survey of 44 other cities showed substantial variation in sex shop licenses, ranging from $1,078 to $35,127. The rate in Carlisle is above the average of $10,697 for a new license and $8,270 for a renewal.

“Over the last three years the world wide web has totally changed the way that consumers purchase adult products and has had a dramatic declining effect on all our licensed sex shops," wrote Mike McCann, chairman of the Adult Industry Trade Association, in a letter in support of the Private Shop.

“Market conditions have changed considerably and high license fees cannot be sustained without having an adverse effect on the whole of the U.K. adult industry. There is a serious danger that these small but important and legitimate businesses could reduce dramatically [in number].”

McCann said that the number of licensed sex establishments in the U.K. in 2005-6 was just over 400 but has since fallen to between 340 and 350.