Crook pub loses licence over drug and underage drinking concerns

The Advertiser Series: Durham County Council’s licensing committee has voted to revoke the licence of  Lotty's Bar in Crook. Picture: DAVID WOOD Durham County Council’s licensing committee has voted to revoke the licence of Lotty's Bar in Crook. Picture: DAVID WOOD

A LANDLADY has vowed to appeal a decision to revoke the licence of her family pub following concerns about drug use and underage drinking.

Lotty’s Bar in Crook failed three test purchase operations in March and April after a 16-year-old girl, accompanied by an undercover police officer, bought cider without being challenged.

Last August, officers found a customer with five bags of cocaine in his pocket, while two further inspections revealed empty bags consistent with drug use and traces of cocaine in the toilets.

Today (Tuesday, July 29), landlady Julie Heslop, a prolific fundraiser who has run Lotty’s Bar for more than 30 years, said she worked hard to prevent drug use and underage drinking in the pub.

However, Durham County Council’s licensing committee granted Durham Police’s request to remove the licence.

Stephen Mooney, acting on behalf of the police, said a warning letter had been sent to Ms Heslop in January 2011 concerning reports of a 14-year-old boy being served alcohol in the pub.

Last August, meanwhile, two PCSOs encountered a heavily intoxicated 16-year-old girl outside the premises.

Mr Mooney said Challenge 25 material had been provided last March, a year before the pub failed the test purchase operations.

“We want to work with good licensees and we accept that sometimes the best, well intended processes and procedures fail,” he said.

“However, here there is no evidence of any real structure in place to address what are very serious issues.”

Ms Heslop described Lotty’s bar as a quiet family-run pub that attracts an older crowd.

She said no-one could recall a 14-year-old boy in the pub and said the 16-year-old girl had arrived in a drunken state and was immediately turned away.

The publican admitted her staff needed extra training to help spot underage drinkers but said the barmaids working on the night of the tests believed the girl was over 18.

She also highlighted posters warning against drug taking in the toilets and said she had bought a tool to help her search for drug paraphernalia in hard to reach places.

“I may be 70 years old but I am experienced,” she said. “I have been in the pub for 30 years and I do not serve underage drinkers. I do my best to check for drugs but I can’t search people’s pockets.”

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