Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Growing drug culture blamed for end of late-night trading

A Newry coffee bar owner who strives to offer an alcohol-free alternative to to the teen and young adult social scene in Newry says he is being forced to close his doors early due to two unsettling incidents where the safety of his staff was compromised by suspected drug users.  

Far from simply condemning those responsible, Graeme Finnegan, owner of Grounded Espresso Bar on Merchants Quay in Newry,  has urged people to recognise the scale of what he says is a “huge problem” with drugs in the city, which he claims is “awash with injectable drugs” – and to look after those with a drug addiction.

The local businessman spoke out on social media following a recent attack on his staff by a man who issued threats to kill and threw the cafe’s outdoor benches at staff and cafe windows before being apprehended by police on Merchant’s Quay.  The coffee bar owner also revealed that drugs paraphernalia had been recently discovered in Grounded’s facilities and disposed of by his staff.

Mr Finnegan said he and his team had prided themselves on offering an alternative to the usual alcohol associated social interactions, “opening right up to midnight to facilitate the young and not so young to sit and relax, have a coffee, a tea, a couple of buns.”

“I once had a parent tell me how grateful she was that Grounded was there, it gave their son, an extra year or so of hanging out with their friends in a safe environment,” he added.

Outlining the details of the violent attack, he revealed his staff no longer feel safe and “don’t deserve to deal with this.”  

“From here on in,until further notice, we will be closing early at 10pm – although these incidents happen at any time of the day….our last incidence of suspected heroin use was at 3pm during the day,” said Mr Finnegan.

Speaking about those responsible and the local drugs problem, the well known businessman said,

“These people, I know they have their own battles and we crave for them to be cared for, but Newry right now, to those based in the town centre is plain to see that there is a huge problem with drugs coming to the forefront”, adding that it was “hard” drugs he was referring to and that the problem could be seen through the windows of local businesses “on a day-today basis.”

“We are a family business – we love families, our staff, our customers…we love those who require help…but we have to look out for our staff first and foremost. And right now, that means closing earlier.

“We need to claim back our town, and look after those vulnerable people, those people who have a drug addiction, we need to help them, normalization of drug use can not be allowed.”

The post prompted a swathe of support for Mr Finnegan’s sentiments, with many calling for greater help for drug addiction and an increased presence from police to tackle the issue.