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Sex Shops and Sexual Entertainment Venues

Information about how to apply for a licence to run a sex shop, sexual entertainment venue or adult cinema.


  • Do I need a licence?
  • Are there any restrictions on who can apply?
  • How much does it cost to apply?
  • Do I need to tell anyone else about the application?

Do I need a Sex Establishment Licence?

A sex establishment may be a sex shop, sex cinema or sexual entertainment venue.  If you would like to run a business that falls into one of these categories then you will need this licence.

A sex shop is a premises used for business consisting to a significant degree for the selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, display or demonstrating relevant articles unless an exemption applies.

A sexual entertainment venue is a premises at which relevant entertainment is provided before a live audience for the financial gain of the organiser or entertainer unless an exemption applies.

A sex cinema is a premises used to a significant degree for the exhibition of moving pictures concerned with relevant images unless an exemption applies.

Please note that a premises may include a vessel, vehicle or stall.

Are there any restrictions on who can apply for a Sex Establishment Licence?

Yes.  An applicant:

  • must be at least 18 years old
  • must not be disqualified from holding a licence
  • must 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).

Is there any guidance on how to complete an application?

Yes.  The application requirements document sets out the application process and the plan and public notice requirements together with other information you may find useful when submitting your application.  You may also find our Licensing Policy for Sex Establishments useful.

How much does it cost to apply?

View our licensing fees and charges

How can I apply?

Apply online now

Do I need to tell anyone else about the application?

Yes, you must notify the Police within 7 days of making your application to the Licensing Authority.  This must be sent to or to the following address:

Essex Police Licensing Hub
Braintree Police Station
Blyths Meadow

You must also, within 7 days of making your application, advertise the application in a local newspaper and send a copy of the advert to the Licensing Authority.

You must also display a site notice on the premises for 21 days starting from the date the application was given to the Licensing Authority.

View an example of a newspaper advert and site notice for an application for the grant/renewal/transfer/variation of a sex establishment licence.

What happens after I submit my application?

There is a 28 day objection period during which people may object to the application.  

If objections are received and cannot be resolved that matter will be referred to the Licensing Committee who will decide whether or not to grant the application.  The meeting will normally take place within 20 working days of the end of the objection period.

How long will my application take?

We aim to make a decision within two calendar months of your application.

Will Tacit Consent apply?

No. We will notify you and other relevant people if we can't let you know our decision within the two months but, as a result of the Provision of Services Regulations, tacit authorisation does not apply because different arrangements are in place.

What is your policy on licensing sexual establishments, sex shops or sex cinemas?

The Licensing Policy for Sex Establishments sets out our approach to regulating sex establishments and the procedures for issuing sex establishment licences.

What can I do if my application is not successful?

You may within 21 days of being notified of the decision, appeal to the local Magistrates' Court.  However, the right to appeal does not apply in certain cases and therefore you may wish to contact the Licensing Authority to check that you are eligible to appeal before making an application to Court.

I would like to make a consumer complaint about a premises - what can I do?

We would always advise that in the event of a complaint the first contact is made with the trader by you - preferably in the form of a letter (with proof of delivery).  If that has not worked and you are located in the UK, you can check Consumer rights - GOV.UK for advice. For those outside the UK, you can contact the UK European Consumer Centre.

I would like to make a change to my licence - what can I do?

You can apply for a variation of the terms, conditions or restrictions in your licence by completing and submitting a copy of Form A and emailing

I would like to renew my licence – how can I do that?

If the details relating to the applicants, the partners, the directors or the persons responsible for the management or the premises have changed, or the operation or management of the premises have changed in anyway, please complete and submit Form A.

If none of those details have changed, you can complete and submit Form B.

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