Gregg Easteal reports
There are rising concerns about drinks being spiked during nights out after claims a woman was taken to hospital after her drink was tampered with.
Police are investigating two reports of drinks being allegedly spiked at a bar in Darlington over the weekend.
More than 1,000 people have also signed a petition calling for The Gate bar in the town to be fully investigated.
The owner of the business in Blackwellgate says the claims are unsubstantiated and said he had seen no evidence of spiking.
One woman, who spoke to ITV Tyne Tees, posted on social media on Sunday 8 January claiming that she had been spiked at the venue on the previous night and was taken to hospital.
Other people have also posted accounts of being spiked at the venue on social media.
Responding to the claims, Mustafa Babat, owner of The Gate, told ITV Tyne Tees he had seen "no evidence" of spiking on the premises but added that the business was taking the claims very seriously.
He said: "We are very upset about it. We don't want any damage to our business. We want people to feel safe coming here. We believe it is safe."
He added CCTV covered the entire venue, which had been passed to police and the team was also working with the licensing
He said: “We are doing everything we can. We feel like we have been singled out."
In a post on Facebook, the venue said staff had received training to prevent further spiking and said any allegations were being taken seriously.
They added there would be delays at the weekend as "more stringent" checks would be carried out.
Inspector Caroline Dickenson, from Durham Police’s Licensing Unit, said: “We have received reports of two alleged drink spiking incidents at The Gate, in Darlington, over the weekend.
“We are working with the venue and colleagues at Darlington Borough Council to thoroughly investigate the allegations, which includes reviewing hours of CCTV footage.
“Drink spiking is a serious offence which is incredibly complex and challenging to investigate. We will always take reports of this type of crime seriously.
“Drugs can pass through the system quickly and there is often limited evidence to identify offenders. Therefore, if you believe you have been a victim of drink spiking, you must report it to police on 101 and seek medical attention immediately.
“If you’re not comfortable reporting incidents to police, drink spiking tests are available at Number Forty, on Skinnergate - this venue and the testing kits are funded by the Safer Streets project, which is a multiagency Home Office funded project to improve women’s safety in and around Darlington.
“A sample obtained from these kits will assist us in quickly identifying what, if any, substances may have been used, and identify if the victim will require further medical attention, giving us the best possible chance of identifying potential offenders.”
Durham Police and Crime Commissioner Joy Allen said suspected drink spike incidents needed to be raised with the proper authorities and not just posted on social media.
She said: “If you feel you have been spiked, immediately phone 101 and we can advise the victim on what we need to do to preserve the evidence.”
Councillor Jonathan Dulstan, leader of Darlington Council, said: “There were a number of people who came and said we want you to look at this and it's important as a community leader I listen to that and understand the concerns people have.
"I've taken the decision to go public and highlight this as an issue and communicate what steps we are taking to make sure these venues are safe."
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