You may need a licence from the council to run a sex shop, which is any premises selling sex toys, books or videos to a significant degree.

To run a venue that enables members of the public to watch explicit films you also need a licence from the council.

The power to regulate sex establishments and issue licences is detailed in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982.

To apply for a sex establishment licence applicants must:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • not be disqualified from holding a licence
  • have been resident in the UK for at least six months immediately before the application. Corporate bodies must be incorporated in the UK
  • not have been refused the grant or renewal of a licence for the premises in question within the last 12 months – unless the refusal has been reversed on appeal

Sex establishment licence applications process

  • fees will be payable for applications and conditions may be attached
  • applications must contain any information the council requires, as well as details about the applicant, including: name, address, marital status, age, and  address of the premises
  • applicants must give public notice of their application by publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper

To apply for a licence – print and complete the application form below, and return it to us by post or in person.

Online application

Alternatively, you can apply for a sex establishment licence online by following the links below:

Will tacit consent apply?

No. It is in the public interest that the council must process your application before it can be granted – if you have not heard from the council within a reasonable period (a maximum of 60 days) please contact us.

Appeals and complaints

Applicants or licence holders should contact the council in the first instance to appeal a decision, against a condition or to complain.

If your application fails

Any applicant who is refused a licence, or the renewal of a licence, may appeal to the local magistrates’ court – within 21 days of being notified of the refusal.

The right to appeal does not apply if the licence was refused on the grounds that:

  • the number of sex establishments in the area exceeds the number which the council considers appropriate
  • the grant of the licence would be inappropriate considering the character of the area, the nature of other premises in the area, or the premises themselves


If you have contacted us to complain but would like further information please follow the links below:

Licence holders may at any time apply to the authority for a variation of the terms, conditions or restrictions in their licence.

If an application for a variation is refused (or if the licence is revoked) the licence holder may appeal to the local magistrates’ court – within 21 days of being notified of the revocation, or imposition of, or refusal to vary, the term, condition or restriction in question. A licence holder may also appeal to the crown court against a decision of a magistrates’ court.

Other redress

Any person objecting to an application for the grant, renewal or transfer of a licence may give written notice of their objection to the council, stating the grounds of the objection, within 28 days of the date of the application.

Offences and penalties

Anybody who operates a sex establishment without a licence or fails to comply with licence conditions or admits persons under the age of 18 years commits an offence. Penalties upon conviction can range from £1,000 to £20,000.

Currently licensed sex establishment premises

There are two licensed sex shops in Portsmouth:

  • The Private Shop, 9 Arundel Street
  • Hidden Pleasures, 129 Albert Road

Sex establishment licence consultation

In April 2012 views were asked on a new draft sex establishment policy, proposed to regulate sex shops, sex cinema and sexual entertainment venues in Portsmouth.

The council reached the preliminary conclusion that there is no place within Portsmouth in which it would be appropriate to licence a sex establishment.

Sexual entertainment venues – Lap dancing clubs

Section 27 of the Policing & Crime Act 2009 amends Schedule 3 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 to introduce a new category of sex establishment called sexual entertainment venue  – if adopted by a council the act require premises in that area who provide ‘relevant entertainment’ (such as lap dancing) to obtain a sex establishment licence.

There is an exemption for premises that provide relevant entertainment on an infrequent basis.

The legislation is not mandatory for local authorities – Portsmouth City Council has not formally considered whether or not to adopt the new statutory provisions. The council will consider the implications of the legislative changes in due course.

The Home Office has provided guidance for local authorities regarding sexual entertainment venues, which is available to download in the associated documents below.