Guide Sex establishment licensing

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1. Information about sex establishment licensing


You’ll need a licence if you want to run a sex shop, adult cinema or a sexual entertainment venue.

  • A sex shop is any premises, vehicle, vessel or stall used for a business that consists, to a significant degree, of selling, hiring, exchanging, lending, displaying or demonstrating sex articles.
  • A sex cinema is any premises used to a significant degree for the showing of films which are concerned primarily with, or relate to, or are intended to stimulate sexual activity.
  • A sexual entertainment venue is any premises at which a live display of nudity or live performance which is intended to stimulate sexual activity is provided before a live audience for the financial gain of the organiser or entertainer.

How to apply

If you want to run one of these businesses you'll need to apply for a sex establishment licence.

Before applying you'll need to think about whether the premises are in an appropriate location, for example near a school, a place of worship or family shopping area.  

All applications must be advertised in the local press and if the application is for a premises, a notice must be displayed outside that premises.


You must:

  • be over 18
  • make sure that no one under 18 works at or visits your premises
  • not be disqualified from holding a licence
  • have been resident in the UK at least six months or be an incorporated UK body
  • not have been refused the grant or renewal of a licence for the premises in question in the last 12 months unless the decision was later reversed
  • follow the conditions of your licence

Displaying your licence

You must display the licence summary at your premises where it can be easily seen.

The other pages of the licence should be kept safely at the premises. Police or council officers can ask to inspect them at any time.

Renewing your licence

A sex establishment licence is valid for one year. You will need to apply to renew your licence each year if you want to keep running the business. The process of applying for renewal of a licence is the same as that for applying for an initial grant except that a plan of the premises is not required and renewal fee is not the same.


Before you apply you'll need to read our sex establishment licensing policy



If you have an issue with a sex establishment you can tell us about it.

Public register

You can view details of existing sexual entertainment venue licences and a list of current applications on our licensing public register.

Trade associations