Outrage as Otley bar accused of selling drink called 'Rohypnol' to customers

An Otley bar has been criticised for selling a shot named after the date rape drug Rohypnol.

The bar is located on Kirkgate in Otley

A row has broken out after The Rookery appeared to be unrepentant in now-deleted posts on the live music venue's official Facebook page.

In screenshots seen by the Yorkshire Post, the bar confirms that they had also been spoken to by police over the controversial drink name.

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Yet the landlord, who did not wish to be named, claimed that in fact the shot - which is sold all over the world - had not been available for around 18 months, though it had appeared on an old menu that had been pinned to the wall more recently because the management were unable to get new menus printed during lockdown.

The post was later removed from Facebook

The post read: "We've just had a phone call from West Yorkshire Police (Leeds North West neighbourhood team) because somebody was offended by the name of a drink. LET THAT SINK IN. The police and our MP investigating someone being offended." The author of the post also included the hashtags #nocrimehere and #subjective.

However, the Facebook status, which has since been removed by The Rookery, did not specify that the drink in question had been called Rohypnol, a notorious drug used in drink 'spiking' incidents as it can render victims unresponsive and cause amnesia, leaving them vulnerable to sexual assault and with little memory of events.

Leeds North West MP Alex Sobel, whose constituency includes Otley, reported the bar, which opened in 2018, to both the police and Leeds City Council. He was satisfied with the initial outcome, and considered the matter resolved when the bar assured licensing officers that the drink was no longer on sale. However, he has decided to speak out after seeing the Facebook post, which he believes was insensitive and indicated a lack of remorse.

"People have complained to me and my staff about this. We had asked them before to change the name, but they have now posted on Facebook and deleted the comment. I wrote to the licensing team and the police to raise the issue, and the bar did change the name - but they now seen to be complaining about it and downplaying it on Facebook. The post didn't mention the name Rohypnol, and it has garnered a lot of sympathy. I now want to set the record straight, having originally not wanted to make a big issue of this.

"I've raised it again because they don't appear to understand their obligations as a licensee.

"My concern is that if someone is at the bar ordering and they say 'I would like a Rohypnol', and someone heard them, it could then be used by an offender in a court of law - they could argue that they'd heard the victim say the wanted the drug. You can see how it could end up being used as a legal defence. It's also massively insensitive and inappropriate, and they don't seem to understand the implications."

Mr Sobel is a keen supporter of Otley's nightlife, and though he has not visited The Rookery, he had been supportive of its appeal to a younger demographic and its live music offering.

"As a licensee, they have responsibilities. I had been happy to leave it at that when they changed the name, but these posts now mean that there's the potential for further action. The council's licensing committee are now aware of what has happened."

Leeds City Council's licensing committee has powers to revoke a business's premises licence for a number of factors relating to safety, compliance and the responsible sale of alcohol.

The landlord said he was struggling to understand why the row had broken out because the drink - which is marketed as 'heroin' in the US - had not been on sale for over a year.

He claims that Mr Sobel did not approach him at any time and that he and his staff had received threats of physical violence over the allegation.

He also added that the Facebook post was only questioning why police involvement was necessary, and that the bar's owners condemn any association with date rape drugs.

"It's not a shot we serve. It's famous around the world under different names, and they aren't the greatest names - they tend to be questionable. We changed our menu a year and a half ago and removed it.

"Licensing spoke to us, but we don't understand why the police are investigating someone being offended. No crime has been committed, and that was what the Facebook post was about. It's a storm in a teacup.

"I feel really helpless - there have been threats from people, and we can't do anything. We're not hiding the shot, and the police involvement is odd."

The licensee believes confusion may have been arisen when old menus which included the drink were pinned to walls after the bar re-opened, although the obsolete items were not supposed to be visible to customers.

"Alex Sobel has never tried to speak to us. It has been a horrible 24 hours. Of course we think date rape drugs are awful - that's the default position, why would anyone think anything else?

"We literally have no idea where this has come from and we've had people threatening to crush our heads in. We can't stop selling something we don't sell.

"It's an assault on our character and we just want it all to stop."