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UK: Fight for cannabis cafe

Mike Hornby

Liverpool Echo

Monday 18 Apr 2005


MERSEYSIDE'S first cannabis cafe is open for business.

The Amsterdam-style Tea Cafe in Liverpool is tucked away behind a bona fide
cafe and, despite being raided by police last month, is still trading.

Owner Gary Youds was arrested but has now reopened the business in Holt
Road, Kensington, and is pledging to fight any moves to close him down.

Mr Youds asked the council for permission to set up the cafe but was
refused. He appealed and was refused again but opened up anyway.

The 35-year-old appeared in court and, after pleading guilty to allowing
his premises to be used for the taking of a controlled drug, was given a
conditional discharge.

Several customers were cautioned for possession of cannabis after the
police raid.

Mr Youds has spent ukp60,000 on his business venture through his company,
The Chillin's Rooms Ltd.

Police insist he is supplying cannabis but Mr Youds said his premises were
only used for taking the drug and he operated a "zero tolerance" policy on
Class A drugs and alcohol.

But he has now been served with a 28-day closure notice by Liverpool council.

The father-of-one from West Derby, said: "I am happy to work with the
police and council, allowing them inside for inspections at any time.

"We are doing nothing wrong, all we want is tolerance."

Police are working with the city council to have the cafe closed down, but
they cannot obtain an Asbo against Mr Youds because there have been no
complaints from residents.

Inspector Kevin Wellens said: "We are committed to enforcing the law and
are liaising with the local authority.

"It's not that residents have reported problems associated with the running
of the premises, more that they are concerned that something like this is

Since it opened six weeks ago, the cafe has gained 400 members, all of whom
must prove they are aged over 18 and must leave the premises by 10pm.

Mr Youds, a former property developer, says the Tea Cafe is his life's dream.

He added: "I have invested six years of planning and a lot of money into
this venture and I am proud of what we have achieved.

"It's clean, safe and unthreatening, inside this cafe there is no violence
or abuse of any sort. We are not here to antagonise the authorities we just
want to be left alone.

"When we were raided the police were shocked - they said it was the most
peaceful raid they have ever carried out."

Nearby residents had mixed feelings about the cafe.

Kevin Miller, 45, who lives on Kensington, said: "I don't care what goes on
behind closed doors so long as there's no disturbance for neighbours."

Jean McGenity, of Botanic Road, said: "Kensington has become terrible
thanks to the drugs. We need less of it, not more."

A council spokesman said the closure notice was issued because Mr Youds
does not have planning permission for the building.

He added: "The use of cannabis is a matter for the police."

It's still illegal

CANNABIS was downgraded from Class B to a Class C drug in January 2004.

Many people believe that effectively made it legal; however, the Home
Office policy is clear.

A Labour spokeswoman said: "Our position is that cannabis is an illegal and
harmful drug.

"The object of re-classifying it was to reflect changing police priorities
and allow them to focus on Class A drugs such as heroin and cocaine."




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