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 Should it go, then it’s a tipping point for the out of date sleazy reputation of Kings Cross.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.