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Undercover police bought cocaine from dealers in Belsize Park pub

11:53 29 November 2012

The Sir Richard Steele in Steeles Village

The Sir Richard Steele in Steeles Village

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Conditions have been imposed on a Belsize Park pub where drug dealers openly sold cocaine to police officers during a six-month undercover operation described as one of the biggest drug busts in the area in recent times.

The operation, codenamed Bridgefoot, was between March and September this year after officers were tipped off about prolific drug-dealing at The Sir Richard Steele pub in Haverstock Hill.

Officers were able to buy cocaine on 24 separate occasions from five dealers who were operating within the venue.

On Tuesday, the pub’s licence was reviewed at Camden Town Hall where it was decided the premises can keep its licence but its beer garden – where many of the drug deals took place – will now close at 8pm daily.

The pub has already voluntarily removed flat surfaces where people could snort cocaine and has got rid of toilet seats in bathrooms to discourage drug use.

The pub’s management are concerned the early beer garden closure will force smokers on the street when they go for a cigarette, which could create more noise for neighbours and will be more difficult for staff to patrol than the garden area.

Speaking on behalf of the Metropolitan Police at the meeting, legal advisor Edward Pleeth said: “The Sir Richard Steele is known within the drug-dealing fraternity as a place to deal drugs. It is a safe haven for drug dealers.

“One of the ways to combat this is to close the beer garden.

“We have come a long way but to allow the beer garden to stay open after 8pm, which we know is at the centre of the drug deals, is a step too far.”

After the operation, police arrested five people for supplying Class A drugs and one for possession with intent to supply Class A drugs.

All six have been charged with the offences and three have pleaded guilty so far.

Stephen Cox, managing director of Faucet Inn, which manages the pub, and Ian Collins, the pub’s new manager who took up his post in September, said the clientele has changed and the pub’s focus is now on serving good food.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Cox said: “Hopefully, we can now continue to make this a great, local community pub.

“There are some positives which have come out of this.

“Hopefully there is now a relationship between us and the police.”

However, he added: “I am concerned about the viability of the pub going forward now.

“The garden being closed from 8pm will have a drastic effect on trade. But we will have to see how it works out over the next few months.

“We are very proud to be owners of the Steele’s. We love the pub and it will be a shame to see the loss of the pub in the community.”

The pub was forced to accept 11 conditions, which include CCTV both inside and out, regular checks of surfaces for drug residue, and no exit and entrance through the beer garden.

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