Torquay bar raided in police op to clean-up Torbay nightlife
POLICE raided cocktail bar SoHo in a search for cocaine as part of a high-profile operation to clean-up Torbay's nightlife.
Around 15 officers went into the upmarket harbourside bar at 8pm after a search warrant was issued under the misuse of drugs act.
No controlled drugs were found, although police did remove some material for forensic investigation.
Acting Detective Inspector Chris Yarwood, who has been leading Operation Ambassador, said: "This is the first time for several years we have carried out an operation of this kind."
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Undercover officers have been visiting pubs and clubs since March as part of Operation Ambassador which aims to keep the harbourside and town centre pubs and clubs safe.
DI Yarwood revealed police and licensing officers are also investigating concerns over the sale of legal nitrous oxide (laughing gas) in anotherTorquay town centre pub.
The gas is the latest legal high phase for young people, who inhale the gas from balloons.
DI Yarwood added that the licensees at SoHo had been co-operative: "A search warrant was issued under the misuse of drugs act following intelligence received, which had been corroborated, that these premises were involved in the supply of class A drugs, mainly cocaine.
"About 15 officers including a police dog handler went down there and executed the warrant at a time when it would cause the least inconvenience to everybody.
"It was aimed against the premises rather than members of the public.
"It all went very smoothly and was done very quickly.
"We didn't find any controlled substances although we found some material which we took away.
"We are still investigating in relation to these premises.
"It is to their credit that we didn't find anything. They were very cooperative and the search went without any problems.
"We left very quickly and they were still open to trade.
"We have to check information that we are given which is corroborated.
"If anybody has any information in relation to drug use in the pubs and clubs which will help us, or concerns about drug supply, then phone us on 101 or contact Crimestoppers anonymously and we will try our best to respond and look into it.
"There are drugs down there on the harbourside and that's a fact of life. But what we want to do is try as much as possible to keep them out of the night life, because your kids and my kids are going down there.
"We have had an incident in one establishment where they are inhaling nitrous oxide.
"We have to ask if that is something we are going to allow our clubs and pubs to sell in their premises, and if they are they licensed to sell this product.
"Our licensing officer Julie Smart been down there already.
"We are witnessing this because we have officers down there as part of Operation Ambassador.
"We do have concerns about young people inhaling nitrous oxide in our pubs and clubs.
"Nitrous oxide used to be used by dentists and it is not illegal. But anything that impairs capacity to behave normally is a concern.
"We need to take a look at it and make sure that there is no threat to public safety."
SoHo in the former Cary Chambers' bank building, on the corner of Palk Street, has been home to a string of bars.
In recent years the bar has traded as Spoken, Port Salut, The Treasury and Bar Code in quick succession.
Operation Ambassador was launched in March to keep standards high in Torquay's prestigious Purple Flag area. The award is for high standards in nighttime economy and Torbay is the only town west of Bristol with the Purple Flag.
Undercover officers have been visiting pubs and clubs and police chiefs warned that premises could lose their licences if they failed to keep high standards. In June, as part of the operation, the nightclub Mambo on Torquay harbourside had its alcohol licence temporarily suspended. Nobody from Soho was available for comment.