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UK: Club denies it's a cannabis cafe

Rachel Wareing

Worthing Argus

Wednesday 07 Feb 2007

Owners of a social club have denied rumours it is being run as a
cannabis café.

Police are investigating allegations of drug use at the renovated
industrial unit, which opened for business last week.

Officers have visited the site to talk to staff and have searched a
number of people leaving the premises in Freshbrook Road, Lancing, but
have no firm evidence of drug-taking.

A spokesman for the club said it was a meeting place, which would be
hired out for business meetings and used as an informal members' club at
other times.

He said the property, which has been furnished with sofas, soft lighting
and tables, would open from noon until 8pm.

He said: "There's no drugs sold here and we would not allow anyone to
use them on the premises.

"We've got computers and wireless internet and the idea is that people
can come in and work in a relatively relaxed environment.

"Mainly we're going to rent it out for meetings and open it up for
casual use the rest of the time.

"It already has planning permission to be used as an office, which fits
in with what we're using it for.

"We aren't opening the doors to all and sundry, only people who are
known to us.

"We've got a doorman to open and close the main gates for people and
welcome them in.

"We don't want to upset anyone and we want to work with residents."

Chief Inspector Lawrence Hobbs said there was no firm evidence of drug
use on the premises.

However, he said lessons had been learned from the force's experiences
in dealing with the cannabis cafés in Worthing, one of which took more
than a year to close down after several raids failed to turn up any
illicit substances.

He said: "It is early days and we do not want to rush in. We want to
gather some evidence, seek some legal advice and listen to how the
community want us to deal with it.

"I do not sense there's any physical threat to residents."

He said the force was examining its options, which include obtaining a
search warrant as well as working with Adur District Council to examine
whether the business is in breach of any of its planning regulations.

An outside meeting is being organised in the street on Friday at 6.30pm.

East Worthing and Shoreham MP Tim Loughton, who campaigned for the
closure of cannabis cafés in Worthing, said another in the Lancing area
would be a "very unwelcome development".

One resident, who asked not to be named, said the site was inappropriate
for a social club as there were schools and a sheltered housing scheme
for the elderly nearby.

Diane Hawkes, deputy headteacher at Thornberry Middle School in
Worthing, said they were aware of the situation.

She said: "We shall be monitoring it closely in order to ensure the
welfare and safety of our pupils."




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