Do strippers belong in a modern Kings Cross? Flying Scotsman seeks to renew adult entertainment licence

For the local flesh trade the Flying Scotsman is like the ravens at the Tower of London.  It’s been a fixture at the bottom of the Cally Road offering striptease for what seems like decades.  Should it go, then it’s a tipping point for the out of date sleazy reputation of Kings Cross.  The Scotsman (you can friend them on Facebook) is applying for a routine renewal of their adult entertainment licence.  The community needs to decide whether it wants this type of establishment. There are several dimensions to the argument.

On the one hand, much of the local sex trade has moved on.  Economic, policing, technology and other forces have brought about a massive decline in the visible sex trade.  Street sex workers have shrunk into the background, though still ply bits of South Kings Cross, book shops, video stores have diminished.  The old Paradise Island brothel on the Cally went some time ago, but there are still a few survivors like the ABCAT Cine Club at 72 Cally Road ‘in business on this site with a loyal following since 1969‘ (see the amusing exchange between a dissatisfied reviewer and a staffer  on AllInLondon) and the odd massage parlour further up the Cally.  The council’s determined pursuit of Pirate Books, an unlicensed sex shop on York Way finally led to its recent closure.  The Flying Scotsman itself is a budget strip joint, with little glamour.

On the other hand there has been a switch from unlicensed, in your face sex trade to a more discreet, licensed one over which the state and the community have some control.  This website helped organise a campaign to licence Soho Books on the Cally Road so that it looked less like a sex shop and more like a book shop.  Ineptitude by council licensing staff led to this work being undone when the licence was last reviewed.  Local sex workers pop up on Twitter and the web rather than when crossing York Way on the pedestrian island.  There’s a smart looking rubber wear shop in the gyratory.  As the Flying Scotsman is licensed, it can be influenced by the community.  Premises are licensed for adult entertainment to try to enforce some basic rules – in 1994 11 people were killed in a fire in an unlicensed sex cinema in Clerkenwell.

The area’s reputation has changed significantly since I first lived on Wharfdale Road in 1995 – Kings Cross is now more about students, media, bars and restaurants than illicit sex and drink all you can nightclubs.   Although weirdly the Wikipedia entry for sex shops features Kings Cross.  As a community do we think that strip joints like the Flying Scotsman should continue to be licenced in Kings Cross?

Cllr Convery has written to the council setting out his reasons for wanting the flying Scotsman’s licence not to be renewed.  He sets out some technical reasons but at the heart of the debate is:

In recent years it seems there  is a residual perception that Kings Cross is a more acceptable place to locate premises offering sex entertainment. In my view, there is no justification for any type of sex entertainment venue in this  neighbourhood. I believe the presence of such an establishment creates the impression that Kings  Cross is an area where sexual services and associated products can be purchased.

Paul’s full letter is here Licence application 2-4 Caledonian Rd objection – Cllr Paul Convery. Annoyingly, once again the formal deadline for written objections has passed (the council need to sort out how the community is told about this sort of thing), but Paul is attending the hearing on 26th March at 1000 and I am sure he will be interested in any comments people might have either in the comments here or by emailing him at

Note to new readers – comments are pre moderated, I use a heavy hand to keep comments on the straight and narrow, a policy that regular readers appreciate – so keep it clean, polite and on topic.

About William Perrin

Active in Kings Cross London and South Oxfordshire, founder of Talk About Local, helping people find a voice online and a trustee of The Indigo Trust , Good Things Foundation and ThreeSixtyGiving as well as Connect8.
This entry was posted in Planning, Licensing and Regulation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Do strippers belong in a modern Kings Cross? Flying Scotsman seeks to renew adult entertainment licence

  1. Daniel Zylbersztajn says:

    I am not sure we can have any control on what kind of stripper club it can be. In a BBC Woman’s Hour Special it was explained that most women start on a minus in these clubs. They often have to pay daily stage fees, buy their own costumes, etc. This is used to both tie women to one particular club as well as to entice work that goes beyond the stripper’s limit. In the first place such clubs need always be fully regulated, though full information is often missing. Secondly I feel that KX has moved on from a junction without a face, to being the heart of a community. This should be considered when considering the continuation of a licence. At one time, if I am not mistaken, there appeared to be a take-it-further-room on the first floor of what is now part of the Brill. However I have to say that except on very hot summer days when customers and girls can be seen outside the establishment kept its business well behind doors and shot windows.

  2. Leah Dixon says:

    In my view I really hope the license is not renewed. My perception of Kings Cross has been blighted in the last year with an increase of prostitution, drug dealing and taking, begging and rough sleepers. This may go unnoticed by many as I live on a small slither of Kings Cross that comes under Camden, is almost Islington and not quite Bloomsbury. I call it the forgotten part of Kings Cross as it is very far from any regeneration. Maybe thats why the criminals are gravitating towards it!! Unfortunately as a parent of a 13 year ol girl I feel sadden by this. Establishments like the Flying Scotsman help keep Kings Cross down and continue a reputation its been trying to shake off for many years. When I’ve reported the increase of crime to local police they’ve informed me that the huge amounts of late night drinking make it very lucrative for prostititues. I would really like the area to be cleaned up for good. By this I mean on every level. I was walking past the scotsman one sunday afternoon on my way to tescos and had the misfortune to almost be vomitted on by one of the overindulgent smokers outside the pub!! Disgusting. This is my community and I’m raising a family here. Theres no room for sex workers, strippers, drugs and crime. It needs to be discouraged at every level at every opportunity!

  3. A short update: the licensing committee meets on Monday 25th March. It turns out no-oen else submitted any representations (this is another story about whether the Coucnil’s licensing team are effectively notifying the public). Providing the applicant’s solicitor gives me and the committee a clear statement that the owners are taking active steps to a different kind of bar over the next 12 months, then I will withdraw the objection. I have met with the applicant and I am reasonably convinced they do intend to close-down this bar within 12 to 18 months and move to something like a gastro-pub. It’s a family-owned business that owns all of the terrace at 2-8 Caledonian Rd including Kesyton House and the former Brill restaurant. The business has struggled to raise the capital to redevelop the whole building to a new standard and it deserves some help with this endeavour. The license to be granted on 25th March is only for a year. I am fairly sure that if the applicant gives such an undertaking but then does not deliver on it, the committee would turn-down the next annual re-application. I appreciate this sounds like a compromise and it is. The pub will not change any of the external appearance as some nearby residents had feared so will retain its current frontage which broadly disguises the what’s-going-on-behind. Personally I am determined to scrub-out the sleazy reputation of Kings Cross and it’s been a step-at-a-time process over the past 5 to 6 years. This is another step, albeit slower than I would like. But I’m just being pragmatic because the alternative will be a closed-down, shuttered-up pub for a year or so.

  4. deeniestar says:

    WHY choose to raise a family there lol?

  5. Gregory says:

    Why is deeniestar trolling when they have “left the area”?
    There is a good case for raising a family in King’s Cross because of the facilities and amenities, but planning is needed for adult’s and childrens entertainments to co-exist peacefully. Good quality and well-managed adult entertainment, alcohol and other evening entertainments, alongside schools and churches, are key to the viability and distinctiveness of King’s Cross

  6. Pingback: Flying Scotsman seeking to renew their sex establishment licence for 2013 | Kings Cross Environment

  7. Borough Stan says:

    The Scotsman was there long before the parade of tedious glossy identikit media and student bars and it’ll be there long after they’ve gone bust. Take your prissy gentrification and fake concerns back to Muswell Hill. No-one cares about your house price.

  8. Trotsky says:

    The Flying Scotsman has closed down and will not be reopening as a strip pub we hear. The owners are finally ready to go ahead with their redevelopment it seems. The dancers were told two days ago.

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