Women only club in Mayfair demands late licence in the name of equality

Sandi Toksvig is a member of the University Women’s Club (PA Archive)
Sandi Toksvig is a member of the University Women’s Club (PA Archive)

A women only members club has caused a stir by demanding equality with traditional gentleman’s clubs and being allowed to sell alcohol from 7am to 1am.

The application by the University Women’s Club in Mayfair is being opposed by neighbours and health officials who say the area is already suffering from rowdy, drunken behaviour.

The historic club opened in 1883 and counts suffragette heroine Emily Davison, who threw herself under the King’s horse in 1913 in a protest for votes for women, among its historic members alongside writer Dorothy L Sayers. More recent members include broadcaster Sandi Toksvig.

Lawyers for the club have written to Westminster council’s licensing committee demanding “that the only traditional members club in London dedicated to women and their careers is given comparable privileges to those enjoyed by other traditional clubs dedicated to men”.

They argue the club “provides direct support to women in their careers, and offers access to a network of unparalleled female talent in a host of industries and fields”.

They said the club’s appeal to extend its licence and allows for functions for non-members would “advance the equality objective” and said the fact traditional gentlemen’s clubs already do that was “very relevant”.

But Westminster’s environmental health team said changing the licence will “increase public nuisance in the area and may impact on public safety”.

Some neighbours also complained they are already being disturbed by the club.

One wrote: “They stand in the garden when they are drunk, shouting and screaming”.

Another wrote: “This is a properly residential corner of Mayfair (always has been) and it’s not appropriate to make it into a centre of nightlife”.

The club says that the lack of an objection from the police demonstrates the “inherently low risk nature of this application, and the vast and proven operating experience of the club”.

The application will be considered on Thursday next week.