Measures to improve venues with bad spiking records 'justified'

Zoe Cutting, owner of The Moloko cocktail bar and tapas restaurant on Lion Street in Ipswich. Pictur

Zoe Cutting, owner of The Moloko cocktail bar and tapas restaurant on Lion Street in Ipswich. - Credit: Danielle Booden

An Ipswich bar owner has said MPs are "justified" in saying bars and clubs with a bad track record on spiking should be required to improve - or risk losing their licences. 

A report by the Home Affairs Committee said that not enough is being done to support spiking victims and it will remain an "invisible crime" unless action is taken to improve awareness. 

The government is considering creating a new criminal offence for spiking, which it is hoped would make victims more likely to come forward and signal to perpetrators that their behaviour will be punished.

Unit 17 in Ipswich have put special safety measures in place to keep their customers safe. Picture:

Anti drink spiking measures are in place in a number of Ipswich venues - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

 

But the committee also said pubs, clubs and festivals - places where spiking is more likely to occur - must be safer. 

This could include local authorities and licensing authorities requiring improvement measures of venues with a bad track record on spiking and wider issues relating to violence against women, as part of their licence renewal. 

Zoe Cutting, owner of The Moloko cocktail bar in Lion Street, said: "Along with owning/managing a venue and holding a premises license comes a huge responsibility to ensure the venue is run in a responsible and safe manner.  

"If the relevant measures are not being taken to ensure the guests safety then I don't feel it unfair for a license to be challenged when it comes to renewal.

The Moloko cocktail bar and tapas restaurant on Lion Street in Ipswich. Picture: Danielle Booden

The Moloko was quick to respond after a number of alleged spiking incidents in the town last year - Credit: Danielle Booden

"However, although we have a responsibility to keep our guests safe, we cannot do it alone. 

Most Read

"Individuals must take some responsibility too by not leaving their drinks unattended and generally just looking out for each other.  

"We have done and continue to do everything in our power to keep our guests safe." 

The Moloko continues to bag search and use a metal detector upon entry - and to date has no confirmed spiking incidents within the venue.

Gareth Harper has opened a Tapas bar in former Degeros site in St Nicholas Street

Gareth Harper has opened a Tapas bar in former Degeros site in St Nicholas Street PICTURE: CHARLOTTE BOND - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

Gareth Harper, owner of Bar Twenty One, said he and his team would be "sitting tight" and waiting to see what recommendations the government took on board - but added that his staff are "doing their very best" to ensure safety. 

He said: "We have more door staff than we're required to have, five instead of three, and search everyone on entry, nobody is allowed in without being searched. 

"It's also our policy to take away any drink left unattended, which has its own challenges when people realise their drink has been taken away, but it just makes sure everyone is safe and if they come and tell us it's gone we can get them another. 

"We have the best CCTV systems and I just think we're doing our very best, but there's only so much we can do. 

"Everyone has to take responsibility for themselves, too." 

He also said his bar is part of the newly-reformed BarWatch scheme and pays monthly for TownLink, which opens radio contact between nightlife venues, Suffolk police and Ipswich Borough Council.

Gareth Harper has opened a Tapas bar in former Degeros site in St Nicholas Street

Bar Twenty One will have a tapas menu and play 90s music with a DJ in the evenings. - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

In response to the report from the Home Affairs Committee, UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nicholls said: "This is a serious issue, and it needs to be tackled quickly and effectively, but through effective partnership working, rather than via restrictions imposed on operators' licences. 

"UKHospitality backs the report's calls for a national communications campaign that forms part of a nationwide strategy that ensures a consistent approach to the issue, and which sees government working with local authorities to develop an anti-spiking strategy that encourages local licensing authorities to make better use of their powers in regard to drink spiking offences." 

Safeguarding minister Rachel Maclean said: "Spiking is a cowardly act which can ruin lives, so I welcome this report and will carefully consider every recommendation. 

"The Home Secretary has confirmed the Home Office is looking at how best to prepare a specific criminal offence and has asked the National Police Chiefs' Council to urgently review the extent and scale of the issue. 

"We have already reclassified GHB and introduced harsher sentences for anyone found with this spiking drug on them without cause. And are not afraid to legislate if it will help the police and courts better tackle the issue."