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Feminist Protest As Playboy Bunnies Return

Women's rights groups have slammed Hugh Hefner for exploiting women as he re-launches a Playboy club in London.

More than 100 members of the groups UK Feminista and Object will protest outside the club in Mayfair, which they claim is demeaning to women.

Speaking on behalf of the groups, Julia Long told Sky News: "The women see that Playboy are about the exploitation of women.

"They're about the degradation of women and I think they're rightly angry at the way Playboy is trying to legitimise pornography and bring it into the mainstream.

"This club is another step in that direction."

Hefner, 85, is in the UK with his 25-year-old fiancee Crystal Harris for the opening.

Asked what he thought about the protests he said: "A feminist protest in 2011 to the Playboy Bunnies is lame.

"Look around you - certain things of a sexual nature are everywhere now.

"Playboy and the Playboy clubs were the end of sexism.

"Women were being held bondage for hundreds of years, owned first by their fathers and then their husbands, Playboy helped to change all that.

"It's what the sexual revolution was all about."

The original London Playboy club closed in 1981 after its gambling licence was not renewed.

It was a regular haunt for stars such as George Best and Frank Sinatra.

The new Mayfair club is set to feature gaming rooms, a restaurant, barbershop and cocktail lounge.

Lifetime membership costs £15,000 and 850 people have already signed up as members, 350 of which are women.

Eighty Playboy bunnies have been hired to work in the club. They will be dressed in the iconic costume of bow-tie and bunny ears.

After a 30-year absence on the London nightlife scene, Hefner says now is the right time to re-open in the capital.

"The return of the bunnies has a retro chic about it. It's back to the 1960s - you know, James Bond, The Beatles and the bunnies.

"The world has gone through many permutations but there's a fascination for that sophisticated more romantic time that people miss."