Shut down order for sauna operating as swingers club

Blackpool Connections and owner Chris Maher (below) and an image from the venue's website (bottom).
Blackpool Connections and owner Chris Maher (below) and an image from the venue's website (bottom).
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A hotelier who made a bid to become a Blackpool councillor has been ordered to stop running his sauna business as a swingers club.

Blackpool Council enforcement officers swooped on Blackpool Connections on Egerton Road, North Shore, after discovering it was contravening planning permission by operating as a swingers club and opening outside its permitted hours.

Chris Maher

Chris Maher

The venue, which is owned by South Shore hotelier Chris Maher who fought to become a Highfield ward councillor at a by-election in September, has now been issued an enforcement notice to stop it operating as a swingers club.

Claremont ward councillor Ivan Taylor says the venue is ‘unsuitable for a family area’.

He said: “The council’s enforcement team has visited the premises after it was meant to be closed and found there was a lot of people there.

“If places are given planning permission to operate within certain hours the public is entitled to think they will operate within those hours and not remain open.

An image from the Blackpool Connections website

An image from the Blackpool Connections website

“I have received complaints for a long time from residents.

“This is a family area and I feel it is unsuitable to have this kind of club there. “There are disturbances with people coming and going at night.”

The club has planning permission for a spa and sauna with steam room with sunbed facilities, but a report to the next meeting of Blackpool Council’s planning committee says: “It appears to the council that the condition has not been complied with, because the premises have been operating as a swinger’s club.”

On the Blackpool Connections website, it is described as a “mixed sauna and swingers club”, which can offer group sex “you’ve always dreamed of”.

Swinging is where singles or partners in a committed relationship engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity.

Another statement says: “We make swinging fun, in a place that does not see swingers as a cash cow.

“That is why membership is free to all.”

The club, previously known as the Honeycombe, was granted permission to extend its opening hours last December.

It previously closed at 8pm, but was allowed to remain open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and until 11pm on weekdays.

At the time, six letters of objection were received and eight letters of support.

Mr Maher, who polled eight votes when he stood as an Independent candidate in the Highfield by-election and also runs The Touchwood Hotel on St Chad’s Road in South Shore, admitted the club was open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays, but said he planned to appeal against the enforcement notice.

He said: “It is still run as a sauna for which it has full planning permission, but whereas previously it was only open to men, now it is run as a sauna for people of any sexuality.

“This is in accordance with the Equality Act from 2010. I am opening Friday and Saturday until 3am, but there are similar venues in Blackpool which are operating without any planning permission at all.

“I have had no complaints from neighbours about the way the premises is run.

“There are no admissions after midnight although there are still people within the building.

“Not a penny is taken over the counter after midnight. On August 28, the council got into the premises after midnight - they entered the building and people were there - but if the building was open to the general public they could have just walked in.

“People in Blackpool can have a private party, there’s no law against it, and what consenting adults do is their business.

“Yes, it is a mixed sauna and swingers club - it’s a club for all sexualities.

“A lot of people have different sexualities and they must be catered for.

“It is victimisation and I just feel its wrong.”

The enforcement order says Mr Maher must cease using the venue as a swingers club, and must cease operating outside the designated hours.

He has until December 18 to appeal and is due to comply by January 1.

Swingers weekends at Blackpool Connections are advertised as being held on Friday evenings 9pm until late, Saturday daytime 11am until 6pm and Saturday evening 9pm until late.

But residents living near the premises say they have not been disturbed by the late night opening recently.

Dunia Shatila, who lives on Egerton Road with her daughter, said: “We have had this for years. This area is going down hill and that just makes things worse.

“But it’s not that place that’s causing the trouble, they don’t do anything outside - it’s the drug dealing and poverty in this area.

“As far as I’m concerned they can go on with it.

Another neighbour, Shirley McCrorie, said: “I’ve got kids and it’s no bother to me. I have never had a problem. If they went out into the street it would be different.”

Charles Stuart, who was among those who objected when the Mr Maher applied for a late-night license for the venue, said: “I objected at the time but there are no issues now.”

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