Swanky bar faces closure threat over cocaine trail
Ben McPartland THE owners of a swanky West Hampstead bar have been warned to tackle drug abuse on their premises or face being shut down. On Monday, Camden Council s licensing chiefs imposed a list of conditions on The Gallery bar and restaurant in a bid
THE owners of a swanky West Hampstead bar have been warned to tackle drug abuse on their premises or face being shut down.
On Monday, Camden Council's licensing chiefs imposed a list of conditions on The Gallery bar and restaurant in a bid to tackle the problems.
Police had requested the licence for the Broadhurst Gardens bar be reviewed after finding evidence of "heavy cocaine abuse" in both male and female toilets on several occasions since January.
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And Councillor Pat Callaghan, who chaired Monday's panel, had a stark warning for owners Hallray Ltd:
"We think you are aware of the consequences if this continues to go on. We will have absolutely no hesitation in coming down hard if the police bring this forward again. Seriously, it will not be pleasant.
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"We know you are working with the police but please don't appear before us again. If something like this happens again the police will be straight on it and we will have no hesitation revoking the licence."
Licensing officer Sergeant Bob Dear began visiting The Gallery in July last year after complaints about noisy customers drinking in the street and blocking the footpath.
The council received seven complaints but despite warning letters being sent out by police, the problems continued.
When officers visited on January 18 this year, drug wipes revealed both male and female punters were snorting cocaine in the loos.
Despite a final written warning, visits in February and March showed the drug problem had not been stemmed.
The bar's director Dan Katan told the panel it was impossible to wipe out a longstanding drug problem overnight.
"We have taken this seriously from day one. We got some advice and started following it but it just seemed whatever we were doing the problem was still there," he said.
"It was a bit of a learning process for us. It took a while for us to realise how serious it was and where people were willing to do this."
Cllr Callaghan, who was joined on the panel by Cllr Arthur Graves, was satisfied the owners along with premises manager Ian Black were now doing enough to tackle the issues and agreed to impose seven conditions suggested by the police.
Registered doormen will patrol outside the pub on busy nights, warning notices will be put up around the bar and a male toilet attendant has been employed to deter drug taking.
Toilet lids have been removed to make it more difficult for people to snort cocaine, and members of staff are to be given more training.
Speaking to the Ham&High after the meeting, co-director Hezi Yechiel said he was happy with the outcome.
"We have been working very closely with the police," he said. "We have to accept the majority of responsibility because it is our premises."