Crook pub could lose licence over drug and underage drinking concerns

The Advertiser Series: COMMITTEE MEETING: Durham County Council's Licensing Committee will meet on Tuesday morning COMMITTEE MEETING: Durham County Council's Licensing Committee will meet on Tuesday morning

AN experienced landlady well-known for raising thousands of pounds for charity could lose her pub’s licence after police raised concerns about underage drinking and people taking drugs in the bar.

Durham County Council’s licensing committee will consider revoking the licence for Lotty’s Bar, in Crook, when they meet next week.

Durham Police are asking the council to remove the licence held by Julie Heslop due to several incidents which have caused them concern.

But supporters have said she is a responsible landlady who takes such issues seriously, as well as being a prolific fundraiser for charity.

In January 2011, police warned Ms Heslop after a 14-year-old was served alcohol in the pub, papers submitted to the council claim.

On August 10 last year, two PCSO’s came across a drunk 16-year-old girl being carried by friends through the streets of Crook who said she had been drinking at Lotty’s Bar.

The following day police visited the bar with a search dog and found one customer with five bags of cocaine in his pocket.

In two subsequent inspections empty plastic bags consistent with drug use were found hidden in the pub’s toilets while traces of cocaine were also discovered.

Officers also carried out three test purchase operations on the pub in March and April this year.

Sergeant Timothy Robinson from the alcohol harm reduction unit said the pub failed on each occasion by failing to ask for identification and serving cider to a 16-year-old girl who was working undercover for police.

Sgt Robinson accused Lotty’s Bar of failing to meet its licensing objectives by not protecting young people from harm.

He said: “Lotty’s Bar demonstrates a clear continuous disregard for the basic expectations of the licensing objectives.

“The sale of alcohol to children as well as the levels of drunkenness and propensity for possession of controlled drugs further demonstrates the systematic failure of the management and staff of this premise.”

Three people have written letters of support for Ms Heslop.

One said she was not in the bar at the time of the test purchases while another said Ms Heslop has been seen challenging people using drugs in the past.

One supporter also said the claims against Ms Heslop are “uncharacteristic” and praised her for raising thousands of pounds for various charities over the years.

Ms Heslop said she did not want to comment before the meeting took place.

The meeting will start at 10am at County Hall in Durham on Tuesday (July 29).

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