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Source Bar manager Donal McLoughlin bans legal highs amid fears they encourage illegal drug use

03 February 2014
by Kiran Kaur

A zero tolerance attitude towards legal highs in nightclubs could help crack down on the use of all drugs on nights out.

That is from a Maidstone bar which has a blanket ban on legal highs to avoid confusion between substances that are on either side of the law.

Donal McLoughlin, manager at The Source Bar, said: “Whether it’s legal or illegal, we don’t approve of any of it and we will take proper action to getting it out of our club.

"We just take a blanket ban across all drugs and all substances that are frowned upon.”

He added: “We can’t allow any form of drug use inside the club because if someone is doing a legal high and someone else sees them doing it, it gives off the wrong impression.

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Donal McLoughlin - Manager, The Source Bar

Donal McLoughlin

"They might think they can get away with doing it as well.

"They might not know that it’s a legal high that they’re doing and then they’ll think it’s OK for them to do their illegal drugs.”

Both floor staff and security staff at the club in Rose Yard are on alert, to look out for anyone using or dealing any kind of drug or substance.

Mr McLoughlin said: “We use the screens here to monitor everything. When we see somebody doing it, security will ask if they wish to be searched and they have the right to refuse it, but obviously if they refuse the search they will be asked to leave the premises.

"If one of us saw them on the cameras, we would say to security what location they’re in and they would go and find the person and we’d remain watching the cameras to try and direct them to the person.”

The Source Bar sign

Despite the strict ban and policies in place, the club apparently has not had any recent cases of clubbers taking legal highs.

However, the night spot was closed for a weekend in July 2009 following a drugs raid on the premises. 

Nearly five years on, Mr McLoughlin is keen to avoid any substance or drug entering the club and has ensured there are measures in place to prevent this.

The Source Bar is one of a number of nightclubs and bars across the UK that have adopted an ‘amnesty box’, to ensure both legal highs and illegal drugs are left at the door.

Clubbers will be given the option to drop anything they have on them that is in breach of the premises’ policies into the box.

Mr McLoughlin said: “If people are asked to be searched, they are given the opportunity to put anything they have in the amnesty box and after the search if we find anything then we’ll take appropriate action."

Legal highs led to 52 deaths in England and Wales in 2012, up on 29 the previous year, according to the Office for National Statistics.

There have also been a number of cases across the country where the substances have lead to heart attacks, frothing at the mouth and blurred vision.

An array of legal high chemicals for sale in a shop

An array of legal high chemicals for sale in a shop

Many of these symptoms and health risks are increased if the legal high is combined with another psychoactive drug, or alcohol.

This is a particular concern of Mr McLoughlin's.

He said: “Obviously we need them to drink, it’s part of our business.

"But drugs themselves inhibit our business because they stop people from drinking for a start so we’re against those, but not just for that reason. They also have effects on people that are bad for their health.

"There are different effects on the body people aren’t aware of and when you take multiple ingredients to the body you don’t quite know what’s going to happen.”


Video: Donal McLoughlin speaks to reporter Kiran Kaur about banning legal highs at the Source Bar

The manager is now hoping the government bans legal highs so they are viewed in the same way as illegal drugs and ultimately help put a stop to anyone attempting to use them while on a night out.

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