The association for the people and businesses of Sheffield's digital industries.

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Spearmint Rhino legal challenge

A new Judicial Review has been granted and objections to the venue’s license renewal will be accepted until the 15th May.

Many people in the local digital and tech industry will be aware of the Spearmint Rhino building on Paternoster Row, as it sits in the heart of the Cultural Industries Quarter, directly opposite the Workstation and the Site Gallery, and we know that it has been a point of contention for many local people and businesses for years.

As far as we can tell, they are operating legally and have not caused any undue nuisance or problems to our direct knowledge. But we are aware that some people have had negative experiences, especially walking to the train station late at night when the club is open, and we wonder whether these are shared by anyone in the digital community.

We also wonder whether the presence of Spearmint Rhino has a negative impact on local business’ diversity efforts, and we would very much like to hear from anyone if that’s the case. Either email us directly at or use an anonymous emailer, such as 5YMail or AnonymouseMail, if you’d prefer. We will treat it in strict confidence whatever you choose.

We should also point out that if you have experienced harassment you may wish to report it to StopStreetHarassment, which is an international campaign, or to the Know The Line campaign here in Sheffield.

From a sectoral advocacy perspective, we think that better use could be made of that building, as it is in a prime location in the city’s major digital and creative cluster, especially as the area around it is about to further develop with the re-opening of the Site Gallery, the Knowledge Gateway improvements and the implementation of Sheffield Hallam University’s Master Plan.

We are concerned that its presence in that location doesn’t reflect well on the CIQ, and on Sheffield generally, as it sits directly opposite the Workstation and next to the Hubs which provide bases for thousands of delegates during Docfest, the Children’s Media Conference, ShAFF and other international events. It is also very close to the UTC Sheffield City, a secondary school that specialises in Creative and Digital Media, and feel that it does not present the best welcome for visiting parents deciding whether to send their children there.

We would like to see more late night venues and entertainment in the CIQ, but it would be hard to argue that Spearmint Rhino is the welcoming, inclusive establishment the location deserves.

None of these reasons are sufficient to oppose the running of a legal and licensed business, and we are absolutely supportive of providing safe working environments for people who work in the sex industry, and regard Spearmint Rhino as providing that.

We would, though, like to hear from anyone who has an opinion about Spearmint Rhino and its location. We would also like to draw people’s attention to the news that a Judicial Review has now been granted, which will allow campaigners to argue in court that councils must consider “the negative impact on women and gender equality in the community” when making decisions to grant Sexual Entertainment Venue (SEV) licenses, which they have never had to before.

There is a Guardian article about the case and the ‘Time’s Up for Strip Clubs’ Coalition has set up a crowdfunding page to cover their court costs.

In addition, and coincidentally, the club’s license is currently up for annual renewal, and Sheffield City Council is accepting written objections until the 15th May. The pressure group Not Buying It have released a template letter with detailed instructions for making and submitting an objection, which you can find here (Word doc).

The license renewal hearing is scheduled for Tuesday 19th June at 10am in the Town Hall and Not Buying It are hosting a meeting on the 15th June at 16:00 at Ponds Forge café to debate it. Please contact the Not Buying It campaign if you are interested in attending and to find out more.

Meanwhile we’d very much like to hear what people think.