Sex shops

To open a sex shop, you must apply for a licence.

A sex shop is a type of sex establishment that provides sex toys, books, restricted 18 films or anything defined as sex articles under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 (1982 Act)

Premises that sell, hire, lend, display or demonstrate sex articles to a significant degree must be licensed by the council under the 1982 Act. 

Sex shops don't have to be shop premises; vessels or stalls can be licensed under the 1982 Act.

Applications are subject to our sex shop licence policy. We have a limit on the number of sex shop licences we will issue in certain areas of the city.

1. How to apply

New licences

Please read the rules of procedure before applying and submit the required documents mentioned in paragraph 3.1. Please also read our standard conditions for sex shops.

Apply online

If you apply online, please pay the correct fee (PDF, 503KB) by credit or debit card.

Applicants for a Limited Company will also need to complete the Particulars of a Limited Company form.

Displaying notice

Once an application has been made, applicants must place a public notice of their application in a local newspaper circulating the area where the premises is located, and display a notice at the premises.

The premises' public notice must be printed on orange A3 paper and the text printed in black ink. The notice must be clearly visible from the street and have the same wording as the notice placed in a local newspaper.

Download public notice template (doc, 12KB)

Information about applying by post

2. What happens next

Receiving the application

If the application is valid, we will consult the relevant consultees. The consultation period is 28 days from the application being validated.

If the application is invalid, we will contact you to help you rectify it. Where applications are so invalid we will return it without processing it.

Objections can be made to applications; in that situation we will notify the applicant and send them anonymous copies of the objections.

Licensing Sub-Committee

All new licences will be reviewed by our Licensing Sub-Committee.

If an application is opposed, the application and objections will be considered at a public hearing and both applicant and objector can make representations to the committee.

The committee will also consider if the applicant is suitable, and if the application meets the council's policy and is in a suitable location.

If the committee grants the licence, it will be valid for one year from the date of grant allowing the use of the premises as a sex shop under schedule 3 of the 1982 Act.

The licence will specify:

  • the licence number
  • who the licence is issued to and their address
  • the trading name and address of the premises
  • the period in which the licence is valid
  • conditions to which that licence is granted

3. Redress information

Appeal process

If the applicant disagrees with any conditions, they may appeal under paragraph 27, schedule 3 of the 1982 Act to the City of Westminster Magistrate Court within 21 days from the formal decision being issued.

If an application is refused under paragraph 12(1), schedule 3 of the 1982 Act, the applicant doesn't have the right to appeal under paragraph 27 unless they prove the refusal doesn't apply to them.

The address for the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court is 70 Horseferry Road, London SW1P 2AX.

If the application is refused under paragraph 12(3(c) or (d) of schedule 3 of the 1982 Act, the applicant doesn't have the right to appeal under paragraph 27.

If there are no grounds for appeal under paragraph 27, schedule 3 of the 1982 Act, the applicant can apply to judicially review the decision.

We recommend applicants seek legal advice regarding their appeal rights if they feel aggrieved by the application decision.

Local residents and businesses

Local residents and businesses can object new, renewal or variation applications. Objections must be submitted to the council in writing within 28 days from valid application being received by the council.

4. Renewing your licence

You must renew your licence every year before it expires.

Only licences holder or their agent can renew a licence, but new operators can take over the licence with a transfer application.

Renew online

In addition to renewing licences, they can be varied or transferred at any time during the licensed period.

To apply online you must pay the correct fee by credit or debit card.

Displaying notice

Applicants must display notice in a local newspaper circulating the area where the premises is located at least once and within 7 days of the date the application was submitted.

The same notice must also be displayed on the premises for 21 days from the date we receive the application.

Download public notice template (doc, 12KB)

Information about renewing by post

Application process


Last updated: 27 April 2017
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