A POPULAR children’s play centre at the heart of a huge drugs swoop vowed to reopen today – despite its owner being charged with operating without a licence.
Around 90 cannabis plants with a street value of almost £65,000 were found being grown in a loft space above Tiki Tots on Nile Grove, Morningside, after officers raided the premises on Tuesday afternoon as dozens of youngsters played.
Yesterday police confirmed a 53-year-old man – understood to be Stephen Gargaro, the sole director of Tiki Tots Ltd and a licensed taxi driver in the city – had been charged with operating the business without a public entertainment licence.
Mr Gargaro could not be reached for comment, but on Wednesday his wife Julie, 48 – a former director of the company – said she had “nothing to do with the business now”.
The raid on Tiki Tots comes after a cannabis haul worth around £75,000 was discovered stashed away at an old church in Viewforth just days earlier – less than a mile up the road.
More than 100 plants and a variety of drug paraphernalia were seized from St Kentigern’s Church on St Peter’s Place last Friday, and police said they were keeping an “open mind” on possible links between the two incidents.
It is understood Tiki Tots has yet to submit an application for a public entertainment licence to the council, and that opening without one would be illegal.
But Jill Dundas, general manager of Tiki Tots, confirmed the play centre would be up and running again by 9am today.
She insisted staff had been “absolutely shocked and extremely saddened” by the drugs find, adding: “You could have picked us up off the floor. There really isn’t much more to say. We are working incredibly hard to get ready to open again.”
Asked how the play centre could operate without a licence, she said: “We are looking into the entertainment licence. We are looking into that just now to see exactly what the situation is in order to reopen.”
In a Facebook post uploaded after the raid, staff at Tiki Tots assured customers they “had no idea what was happening in the remote, inaccessible to us, roof space. Police are following a positive line of inquiry that categorically does not include this team.”
A council spokeswoman said: “Any premises that require a public entertainment licence should obtain one prior to opening.”
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “A 53-year-old man has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal for licensing offences as part of an ongoing investigation into the recovery of cannabis.”