Licences for sex shops are required where 18R films are sold, or where there is a 'significant degree' of 'sex articles' for sale. The phrase 'sex articles' is defined in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 as:

(a) anything made for use in connection with, or for the purpose of stimulating or encouraging:

(i) sexual activity; or

(ii) acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity; and

(b) any article containing or embodying matter to be read or looked at or anything intended to be used, either alone or as one of a set, for the reproduction or manufacture of any such article; and

(c) to any recording of vision or sound, which:

(i) is concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deals with or relates to, or is intended to stimulate or encourage, sexual activity or acts of force or restraint which are associated with sexual activity; or

(ii) is concerned primarily with the portrayal of, or primarily deals with or relates to, genital organs, or urinary or excretory functions.

The phrase 'a significant degree' is not defined. When considering whether or not a business is selling a significant degree of sex articles and needs a licence, we will consider:

  1. the ratio of sex articles to other aspects of the business
  2. the absolute quantity of sales
  3. the character of the remainder of the business
  4. the nature of the displays in the business
  5. turnover generated by sales of sex articles
  6. the format of any literature, publicity or advertising materials
  7. other factors which appear to be materially relevant.

Grounds for refusal of a licence

There are some specific grounds for refusing sex establishment licences set out in paragraph 12 of schedule 3 to the 1982 Act. These include where the applicant is unsuitable to hold a licence, due to their age, domiciliary status or previous criminal convictions.

We can also refuse applications for new or renewed licences where the grant or renewal of the licence would be inappropriate, having regard to:

(i) the character of the relevant locality, or

(ii) the use to which any premises in the vicinity are put, or

(iii) to the layout, character or condition of the premises.

Characteristics of a locality

In considering the characteristics of a locality we shall particularly take account of the density and proximity of:

  • historic buildings or tourist attractions
  • schools, play areas, nurseries, children's centres or similar premises
  • shopping complexes
  • residential areas
  • places of worship

Length of a licence

We will, unless there are exceptional reasons otherwise, grant any licences for the maximum duration of a year at a time to provide certainty to those operating businesses.

How to apply

You can apply for a Sex Establishment Licence through our online application or send the completed application form and documentation via email to; please include a contact telephone number in order for an officer to make contact for the payment of the application fee via credit/debit card.

Apply for a Sex Establishment Licence online 

Application documents

We have a standard application form, including public notices, which can be found below:

Download the Sex establishment licensing application documents.

Conditions attached to a Sex Shop Licence

We have adopted standard conditions for the operation of sex shops. Where it is reasonable and necessary to do so, our Licensing and Registrations Sub-Committee will impose additional proportional conditions on a licence. Wherever possible, these will be discussed in advance with operators by our licensing officers.

Download the Sex establishments standard conditions.


Our fees are set each year. The current annual fee for a Sex Shop Licence is £2840.00. The fee to transfer or vary a licence is £506.00.

Contact the Licensing Team

Address: Oxford City Council
Town Hall
St Aldate's

Telephone: 01865 252565

Rate this page