Sex shops

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
  • things intended for use in connection with or for the purpose of stimulating or encouraging sexual activity or acts of force or restraint associated with sexual activity

The sale of R18 videos and DVDs requires a sex shop licence in all circumstances, including sale by mail order.

There are two exceptions:

  • the establishment is used only for the sale, supply or demonstration of articles primarily used for or related to birth control
  • the council has waived the requirement for a licence

Licences for sex shop will be granted for up to one year.

Application process

To assist applicants in the application process please read these documents carefully:


We have a duty to protect the public funds it administers, and may use the information you provide to prevent and detect fraud. It may also share this information with other bodies responsible for auditing or administering public funds for these purposes.

Medway Council is a Data Controller under the Data Protection Act 1998. We hold information for the purposes specified in our Data Protection Notification made to the Information Commissioner and may use this information for any of them. We may get information about you from others, or we may give information to them. If we do it we will only do so as the law permits, to check accuracy of information or prevent or detect crime. We may check information we receive about you with what is already in our records. This can include information provided by you as well as by others such as government departments and statutory agencies. We will not give information about you to anyone outside Medway Council unless the law permits us to do so.


When applying you must:

  • give public notice of the application by publishing an advertisement in a local newspaper that is circulated in the local authority area no later than seven days after the date the application is made. 
  • display a notice of the application on or near the premises where members of the public can easily read it. The notice should be displayed for 21 days starting from the date the application was made
  • ensure all notices are in the form prescribed and identify the premises or specify where it will be used as a sex establishment if the application relates to a vehicle, vessel or stall.


The Licensing Authority will not determine an application for the grant of a licence, unless the applicant allows an authorised officer a reasonable opportunity to enter the proposed sex entertainment venue to make such examination and enquiries as may be necessary to determine the suitability of the applicant and the premises.

Determining application

A licence can be refused if at the time the application, it is determined the number of sex establishments or sex establishments of that kind in the area is equal to or exceeds the number that the authority considers appropriate. Or that a sex establishment would be inappropriate due to the:

  • character of the relevant locality
  • use to which any premises in the vicinity are put
  • layout, character or condition of the premises

To determine the application the licensing authority can put restrictions on the licence or to place conditions on the licence. If restrictions or conditions are applied, the licensing authority will ensure that they are necessary, reasonable and proportionate to meet the aims of any primary legislation, in particular the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 and any other relevant legislation.

For more information contact the Licensing Team by emailing

Write to: Licensing Unit, Medway Council, Gun Wharf, Dock Road, Chatham, Kent ME4 4TR