By Jarryd Bartle

From gay saunas to elite couple’s clubs, sex-on-premises venues provide a unique space for fantasies to be explored.

But before you convert your pool room into a Playboy grotto, it’s worth considering the legalities of the situation.

Unlike adult retail stores, brothels and strip clubs, the legalities of sex-on-premises venues can be somewhat murky.

Here are some things to consider.

What’s A Sex-On-Premises Venue?

Only in Victoria are ‘sex-on-premises’ venues defined in legislation. The Sex Work Act 1994 (Vic) defines a sex-on-premises venue as:

any venue where a person is required to pay an admission fee or charge to enter the venue for the purpose of engaging in sexual activities with another person who has also entered the venue on the same terms and who did not receive any form of payment or reward, whether directly or indirectly, for engaging in sexual activities.

In Victoria, sex-on-premises venues are excluded from sex work laws if permission is granted to operate by the Department of Health.

The relationship between sex-on-premises venues and sex work laws in other jurisdictions (particular where sex work is licensed or criminalised) is incredibly unclear.

Generally, if sex workers are offering services on the premises it is a brothel and sex work laws apply.

Planning Laws

Some councils have specific planning restrictions which apply to sex-on-premises venues. These restrictions are similar to other adult-oriented businesses in that they limit where venues can operate and require approval.

A development application will sometimes have to be made and specific criteria met.

The City of Sydney has one of the country’s most comprehensive development control plans regarding sex-on-premises venues and requires operators to meet strict occupational health and safety guidelines. These include specific guidelines regarding:

  • Access to free condoms and lube
  • Adequate lighting at venues
  • Safe disposal of injecting equipment
  • Access to information resources on sexual health, HIV and STIs
  • Staff training in sexual health and drug and alcohol
  • Cleaning

Liquor Licensing

If you are providing ‘adult entertainment’ and you wish to provide alcohol, many jurisdictions require a specialist alcohol license.

In some jurisdictions, this condition only applies where performers are providing sexually explicit entertainment. However, other jurisdictions use broader language.

In Queensland, ‘adult entertainment’ includes “entertainment where the anus, vulva, vagina, penis or scrotum of any performer or staff member is visible, either deliberately or by accident.”

To be safe it’s best to either ditch the booze or call up your local liquor licensing authority to see which category you fall into.

Health, Safety and Consent

All businesses must abide by occupational health and safety and general public health laws. But, running a venue where sex is expected carries a unique set of risks and obligations.

It’s important that venues are kept clean and that condoms, dental dams and lubricant are made available on-site.

There should be signage on the premises promoting safe sex as well as affirmative consent.

Affirmative consent requires both parties to freely agree to sexual activity knowing what they are getting into and expressing an intent to participate.

A person cannot consent if they are unconscious, heavily intoxicated or in any way unable to freely agree to sexual activity. Consent should never be “assumed” and the absence of resistance does not mean consent.

As operators of sex-on-premises venues it’s important that you encourage a culture of consent in your venue and take complaints of sexual misconduct very seriously.