Cocaine on Tap at London's Top Bars; STANDARD INVESTIGATION FINDS CLASS A DRUG TRACES AT SIX OUT OF TEN VENUES

Article excerpt

Byline: FLORA STUBBS;MATHEUS SANCHEZ;MARK PRIGG

THE scale of cocaine abuse in London can be revealed today.

An Evening Standard investigation found traces of the class A drug in the lavatories of more than half of the capital's top bars and nightclubs.

In the wake of new Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair's promise to clamp down on middleclass drug use, our reporters tested 10 venues across London.

They found traces of cocaine in the lavatories of six. Venues that tested positive include Panagaea and Chinawhite, two nightclubs frequented by Prince Harry.

Despite our survey being carried out on a quiet midweek evening, drug use still appeared to be widespread.

Reporters donned latex gloves and used sterilised swabs to test each lavatory.

Samples were taken from toilet lids, cisterns, shelves - and even the lids of sanitary bins. These were then put in collection test tubes and sealed inside secure police evidence bags.

The samples were sent to a forensic laboratory, where they were analysed for the most common drugs - including cocaine.

Positive samples were then tested a second time. Today, the lab confirmed the results. "There is absolutely no doubt, six of the samples contain traces of cocaine," said Chris Harrison of forensic analysis laboratory Scientifics.

IN the fashionable bars and clubs of London, our reporters found the drug was commonplace. Getting into Panagaea - the Piccadilly nightclub where Prince Harry was pictured scuffling with a photographer in October - is not easy.

We queued outside for almost an hour, watching as businessmen and boy-band lookalikes rolled out of sports cars and walked straight past the bouncers.

When we finally got inside, the atmosphere was charged. Scantily-clad models danced on tables - which each have a minimum spend of [pounds sterling]500 - while groups of older men, many of them City bankers, stood sipping Cristal champagne.

A stream of glamorous, tanned women went in and out of the lavatories.

Inside the cubicles we found visible traces of white powder on the only flat surface - the lid of a sanitary bin.

Forensic analysis confirmed that it was cocaine, mixed with traces of caffeine. A spokesman for Panagaea said today: "We don't condone drug use. We have no further comment."

The Notting Hill Arts Club is a favourite of the west London set that includes Kate Moss, Sadie Frost and Jade Jagger. We arrived to find the club still busy. The lavatories were messy, with what looked like a discarded drugs wrap on the floor of one cubicle. …