Bexley has become the first licensing authority in the country to successfully clip the wings of a bar owned by Wetherspoon.

FEARS of a full-scale riot led police to bring the Lloyds No1 bar in Bexleyheath's town centre to order, a licensing hearing has heard.

On Christmas Eve, almost every Bexley police officer on duty was called to the bar in Market Place, Bexleyheath, after colleagues came under a hail of glasses and bottles as they tried to remove a customer.

As patrons spilled out onto the Broadway, reinforcements were sent from Greenwich and Lewisham, alongside police dogs and handlers from Croydon.

Police feared the estimated 1,000 revellers would be joined by hundreds more leaving the RSVP bar opposite at the same time and large-scale fights could break out.

A request for reinforcements was also made to New Scotland Yard.

Bexley police's licensing officer PC Eddy Boston told a council licensing sub-committee hearing last week the management of the bar had "totally lost control".

He described the situation as "nothing short of a riot".

After the incident, which was the culmination of a series of attacks and violence at the bar, police applied to the council for a review of the bar's licence.

Its owner, JD Wetherspoon, took the application so seriously it closed the bar and spent £150,000 on a complete revamp, including renaming it The Furze Wren.

The bar reopened the day before the hearing, with plastic glasses and without a DJ, neon lights, loud music or displays of shot drinks.

The dance floor had also been halved in size.

It is now aimed at 25 to 40-year-olds.

The company agreed to a police request to replace its bar manager with a more experienced one.

Representing Bexley police, barrister Gary Grant described the move as "too little, too late".

He catalogued the violence at the bar over the past year, which accounted for nearly half the incidents in licensed premises in Bexley.

PC Boston said police had asked the bar's local and area management to stop using glassware at a meeting before Christmas, which they refused to agree to.

On January 8, following a series of glassing incidents and the near riot, police met the bar's management again and repeated the request.

After getting the same response, PC Boston and police operations manager Chief Inspector Steve Murrant told them the police had applied for a review of the licence.

Wetherspoon chief executive John Hutson was among the firm's top management at the hearing.

The company's barrister, Stephen Walsh, urged the sub-committee to postpone any decision to see how the new bar performed.

But after deliberating for nearly two hours, the sub-committee refused the company's request.


  • THE sub-committee revoked the licence to provide regulated entertainment from Thursday to Sunday.
  • It varied the times of the bar's licence to an 11pm deadline for serving alcohol from Thursday to Sunday.
  • No glasses or glass bottles are to be available to customers after 8pm.
  • No under-21 customers can be admitted after 8pm from Thursday to Saturday.
  • The bar will also have a capacity limit of 600 people.


AFTER the hearing, Mr Murrant said: "It is a shame it had to come to this. I would have hoped we would have been able to engage with the management at an earlier stage."

He said at the December meeting he told bar management "enough is enough".

Mr Murrant accused the company of "playing sardines and yet still trying to squeeze more into the tin".

He added police were now setting up meetings with other licensed premises to discuss the knock-on effects and implications of the council's decision.


A Wetherspoon spokesman said it was discussing with its lawyers the merits of appealing against the council's decision.

He said the company hoped to continue a good relationship with police and the council and was committed to ensuring the new bar meets the licensing objectives.

The company now has 21 days to appeal.