Searches in pubs spark row in market town

Pub operators in Staffordshire are taking the local council to court over a
new policy which forces them to randomly search customers for drugs, saying it
places a huge burden on staff and business.

Pubs in the town of Newcastle-under-Lyme have been told that to receive a
public entertainment licence they will have to search one in every 30 customers
after 7pm, and one in every 15 after 9pm.

The policy is part of the council’s drive to create a safer environment in
the town.

But the pub operators in the town have raised concerns over the new
measure’s effectiveness and as to how they are meant to operate it.

Keith Luxon, head of HR policy and reward at Laurel Pub Company – one of
those affected – said: "Virtually no-one thinks this is a good idea.

"The council is expecting us to hire and train extra staff to randomly
search customers for drugs and then deal with the consequences if any are

"We don’t believe drugs is a big problem in our pubs and this puts our
door staff in an unenviable position," he said. "We could make
customer searches a condition of entry, but it takes time and it’s not the sort
of message we want to send to our customers."

Richard Lister, an employment lawyer at law firm Lewis Silkin, said the
issue for employers was putting staff into situations of potential conflict.

"If there is no previous reference to this in their contracts it will
be a significant change in terms of employment.

"However, employers can argue this new duty is reasonable as they have
very sound business reasons for introducing it. They can then seek to agree new
terms and conditions."

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council admitted it is disappointed with the
opposition to the new policy. It is expected a decision will be reached by the
middle of next month.

By Mike Berry

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