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Head-shop baron shuts outlet on Costa del Sol

MILLIONAIRE head-shop baron James Bellamy has suffered a setback in his hopes of opening a chain of the controversial stores in Spain.

The businessman has closed down his first Nirvana head shop in the Costa del Sol resort of Benalmadena less than three months after opening.

Mr Bellamy vacated the premises near a notorious clubber's paradise after pressure from local authorities.

Town hall inspectors and local police are thought to have swooped on the shop and taken away dozens of products for analysis a few weeks after its opening at the end of June.

The closure has left Mr Bellamy's dreams of expanding his multinational empire after a clampdown from the Government here in disarray.

He is now thought to have postponed plans for a string of new shops in neighbouring Fuengirola and the Costa Blanca resorts of Alicante and Benidorm.

Yesterday, all that remained of Mr Bellamy's intended flagship store was the traditional logo -- the word 'Nirvana' in red, gold and green between two marijuana leaves.

A 'To Let' sign stood in the window of the shuttered-up shop -- empty except for a few dust-covered shelves.

Brightly-coloured lettering boasting 'Legal Highs, Incense, Bath Salts and Novelty Items' had been wiped clean.

Benalmadena Town Council, the local authority covering the area, had yet to make any official comment on the closure by the end of yesterday.

But a source close to the case said: "Nirvana hasn't been closed down.

"What may have happened is that the owners got the message businesses like these are not welcome in the area.

"There was an inspection and items were taken away.

"I believe it was an administrative inspection to make sure the shop was complying with things like regulations on labelling rather than an inspection motivated by allegations criminal offences were being committed."

The source added: "The simplest thing to do when you want a business to go away is to put a police officer outside their door.

"No one's going to buy anything they're worried might be dodgy with police outside.

"I don't know what happened in this particular case. But I don't think anyone in the town hall will be too upset they're gone.

"Nor do I think they're going to have much joy if they try to set up elsewhere on the Costa del Sol.

"I'd be surprised if any council in the area tolerates this sort of business."

Neighbouring retailers told how they turned up for work to find the shutters at Nirvana pulled down.

One, who asked not to be named, said: "They were open 24/7 so I was surprised to see the shop closed.

"They seemed to be doing a roaring trade in the short space of time they were open."

The Nirvana head shop in Benalmadena was designed to attract clubbers from the town's busy Sol y Mar 24-hour square -- where several nightclubs stay open until dawn catering for masses of young revellers.

It stocked many of the same legal highs that caused dozens of Irish youths to be hospitalised.

The store sought to exploit the same legal loopholes it targeted so successfully here by selling products that had not been legislated against.

It is thought to have traded with a licence granted to the previous tenants of the premises.

Sunday Independent