Southend bar staff to police premises as council calls for drug and alcohol awareness training

Bar staff could soon be responsible for spotting signs of drug taking and bouncers expected to hand out glasses of water to people too drunk to enter, under a new policy being considered by Southend Council.

Next week council leaders will discuss tightening the rules around serving alcohol in pubs and bars, including expecting landlords to introduce new training programmes that encourage staff to be aware of which customers having taken drugs and who shows signs of vulnerability or drunkenness.

Bouncers and staff who refuse drunk customers entry will also be expected to offer a glass of water and provide advice.

Councillor Martin Terry, who oversees public protection in the borough, said he wanted it to be clear that this was not about trying to burden licensed premises with extra regulation but about helping tackle crime.

“Part of this is dealing with people using drug recreationally which is common now, particularly cocaine. We have got to deal with that. People often aren’t aware of the harms and risks associated with this market which is often supplied through county lines.

“Where we can we will double down on ensuring licensed premises to take responsibility and to be aware of what is occurring. It is a real problem. People take white powder up their noses without connecting that who delivers that white powder is likely to be a vulnerable young child or a county lines drug gang.

He continued: “County lines is an absolute menace and children are being used to deliver this stuff.

This policy is part of the jigsaw of joined up working. We should all be helping each other, we’ve all got children, we’ve all got families – it is a social responsibility for all of us.”

When the policy was first announced critics said certain changes such as requiring bar staff to recognise signed of intoxication were things they already do, but Cllr Terry said he wants there to be “more professionalism and more responsibility taken by licensed premises”.

“The current business model is about loading people up with a lot of alcohol but we need to get the licensed premises to start thinking about taking responsibility for what happens beyond their premises in particular.

“We have had complaints of anti-social behaviour outside of pubs and bars and beyond, so we are saying that if you are operating a business model where people are consuming excess amounts of alcohol you need to take responsibility for that.”

As part of this added responsibility, the cabinet wants to see and end to company policies that promote bonuses and sales incentives for selling alcohol. They may also begin using the location of violent attacks, anti-social behaviour and hate crime may be used to justify closing times.

Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter