Herne Bay shop owner Harry Francis will not sell legal highs following threats and fierce Facebook backlash
A businessman says he has quit plans to sell legal highs at a new shop in Herne Bay following an angry backlash from people in the town.
Harry Francis, 29, says he will no longer consider selling the controversial herbal products after receiving threats since announcing the opening of Shiva Bay in Mortimer Street.
News of his plans to sell the so-called legal highs had sparked the formation of a protest Facebook group, which gained 1,400 members in less than a day.
Harry Francis with his new shop in Mortimer Street, Herne Bay
But Mr Francis says he will now open purely as a smoking accessory shop.
The father-of-two said: "I woke up this morning to hundreds of different opinions, pretty much slating me. I wasn't really prepared.
"It's caused me a lot of hassle, with threats of boycotts and people teaming up to get me out of Herne Bay.
"I didn't want to open and have herds of people coming and giving me abuse. I'm too scared to even go to the shop. I think I'm going to get hounded by people.
"I don't know what to do. I've had people telling me they are going to do this or that. They have said they would graffiti the shop or smash the windows.
"I’m too scared to even go to the shop. I think I’m going to get hounded by people..." - Harry Francis
"I don't want all of these threats. I'm a pretty peaceful person, so I don't appreciate people saying they are going to send a lynch mob, and ganging up on me."
Mr Francis says the store will not stock legal highs, which often come in the form of herbal products labelled "not for human consumption".
It will now only sell items such as Rizlas, bongs and flavoured tobaccos, as had been originally intended.
Mr Francis said: "I'm making it clear to people that I will be opening a smoking accessory shop, and that's it.
"We will have a buzzer security system to enter, so kids won't be hanging about. It will be strictly for over-18s.
"I was expecting some of the backlash, but not to this extent. I hadn't even got any stock in for the shop yet and haven't even opened the doors.
"I was looking forward to it opening, but now I'm a bit depressed, and regretting that I even contemplated it.
"I have invested close to £3,000, but in the long-term I decided the best move was to take it on the chin and move on."
Herne Bay MP Sir Roger Gale
There had been criticism of legal highs from Herne Bay MP Sir Roger Gale, but he said shop owners should not be targeted.
He added: "We can't level criticism at the owner of the shop. It's the law that's an ass, not the owner."
The store is expected to open later this month.
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