Police apply for licence review of city centre bars two years after they were shut down in a drug dealing investigation
27 Feb | 12:44
City centre cops have requested the licence of a management company for a string of popular bars be reviewed – two years after they were closed down as part of a major drug dealing investigation.
 
Northumbria Police have asked Newcastle City Council to review the licence of the Apartment Group who manage bars including House of Smith, Madame Koo and Floritas.
 
At the end of 2017 the bars were issued with closure orders after it emerged staff and promoters were involved in the supply of Class A drugs across the city.
 
That investigation resulted in the premises being shut over the busy Christmas period and the conviction of 20 drug dealers at Newcastle Crown Court last year.
 
The bars were allowed to re-open a month after being shut down after they were able to present evidence that they were working with police and partners to put preventative measures in place.
 
But now Northumbria Police are applying to the city council to review the Apartment Group’s licence – after reports of further drug use at House of Smith.
 
In an application submitted to the licensing sub-committee, officers state they had received a report that a member of staff at the bar had been openly using Class A drugs during opening hours and dealing it among other staff members.
 
This was not reported by the bar themselves and, after an investigation, officers arrested the staff member in question and they were issued with a caution. 
 
Police have also raised concerns about lewd and sexualised promotional leaflets that were used to advertise a university Fresher’s Week event earlier this year.  
 
The application was submitted today (XXX) meaning interested parties now have 28-days to consider the findings before a licensing hearing date is set.
 
Chief Inspector Steve Wykes, who oversees policing in Newcastle city centre, says the Force was “left with little choice” but to request a review.
 
He said: “We are very disappointed that we are in this position considering all the work that we have done to engage with licensed premises as part of Operation Doncaster.
 
“That investigation sent a strong message to businesses across the city that they needed to work with us to drive drug use and criminal activity out of the city centre.
 
“At previous licensing hearings the Apartment Group had made submissions that they were committed to working with partners to safeguard visitors to Newcastle City Centre.
 
“But we have found evidence that suggests they have failed in this duty and we have been left with little choice but to take this course of action.
 
“I want to be clear that the vast majority of businesses in the city centre continue to work well with police and key partners to safeguard those who enjoy the night-time economy in Newcastle.
 
“We have a duty to keep the public safe and will take this course of action if we feel it is necessary and proportionate.”
 
The application was submitted to Newcastle City Council today (XX) meaning there is now a 28-day consultation period for interested parties to consider the application.
 
The local authority will then consider the submissions and set a date for a hearing before the licensing sub-committee.
 
As no Closure Order has been put in place, the premises concerned will be permitted to continue to trade until any decision is made by the committee.
 
A Newcastle City Council spokesman said: “We have received an application from Northumbria Police to review the premises licence for the Apartment Group trading as House of Smith, Madame Koo and Floritas. 
 
“There will be a 28-day consultation period and the application will go before the licensing sub-committee for them to consider what action, if any, is required.”
 
Operation Doncaster was launched in summer 2017 and resulted in 20 drug dealers being sent to prison for a total of more than 50 years.
 
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