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Sex shop and adult cinema licence

You need a licence from the council to run a sex shop - i.e. any premises selling sex toys, books or videos - or to run a venue where explicit films are shown to members of the public. However, you may apply to the council to request that the need for a licence is waived.

Middlesbrough Council's policy relating to the licensing of sex shops states that 'the number of sex establishments allowed in the town centre of Middlesbrough be one, and that no sex establishments be allowed in other localities of Middlesbrough.'

Read more about the relevant legislation.



An applicant must:

  • be at least 18 years old
  • not be disqualified from holding a licence
  • have been resident in the UK at least six months immediately before the application or, if a corporate body, 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

Applications must contain any information the local authority requires, as well as the applicant's name, address and, where the applicant is an individual, their age, plus the address of the premises.

Applicants must give public notice of their application by publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper.



Fees will be payable for applications and conditions may be attached. The current fee for applications is £2,663.

What happens next?


You won't be able to start your business until your application has been granted. If you've had no response from the council within 28 days, please contact the Licensing team on 01642 728011.

Redress information


Please contact Middlesbrough Council in the first instance. Any applicant who is refused a licence, or refused 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 where the licence was refused on the grounds that:

  • the number of sex establishments in the area exceeds the number which the council considers is 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

Customer complaint


If you're a customer of a licensed/registered premises and wish to complain about the service or products sold, we would advise you to contact the premises in the first instance to resolve the matter.