Published: 13:10, 25 November 2021
| Updated: 16:20, 25 November 2021
The Pitcher & Piano has had its licence suspended until Wednesday next week, with the club deciding to close for the same period, in order to bring in a raft of improved safety measures, including cup covers for drinks.
Seven customers became unwell on Sunday, November 21, between midnight and 3am. The victims, in their late teens and 20s, suspect their drinks were tampered with and, in two instances, thought needles may have been used to administer substances.
On Tuesday, police requested that Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s (TWBC) licensing committee review the licence of the bar, in Church Road.
The force's application raised concerns about the management of the venue and existing security measures.
Yesterday, the licensing committee issued a suspension of licensed activities for the premises until Wednesday next week.
Bar owners have voluntarily closed the venue completely during this period to improve safety measures.
The bar will bring in better quality CCTV with a wider coverage, provision of cup covers for drinks, improved lighting and use of metal detectors at the entrance.
Pitcher & Piano will reopen with an amended licence that has additional conditions intended to reduce crime and disorder and promote public safety.
A full review of the licence will be completed by the licensing committee on a date to be confirmed
No further offences were reported against the victims, and none of the complainants witnessed or recovered needles.
An investigation is underway into the allegations and officers are working with the venue while carrying out enquiries into the circumstances, including a review of CCTV footage.
'We were pleased to receive the co-operation of premises owners at the hearing who have taken the additional step of closing the bar while safety measures are put in place.'
District Commander for Tunbridge Wells, Ch Insp Lizzie Jones said: "The application to review this licence was made due to the seriousness of the allegations received and the concerns of officers that the bar should have more effective safety measures in place for their customers.
"We were pleased to receive the co-operation of premises owners at the hearing who have taken the additional step of closing the bar while safety measures are put in place.
"We will continue to work constructively with the management of the Pitcher and Piano once it has reopened.
"We take all reported incidents seriously and officers from our dedicated Community Safety Unit work closely with the town’s night-time venues to make them hostile places for those who may seek to exploit others and ensure members of staff recognise the signs of spiking and other criminal behaviour that might take place.
"Every incident reported to us is thoroughly investigated to identify any suspects and provide support and assurance to victims.
"We continue to encourage people to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to security staff in the first instance, to ensure immediate action can be taken and everyone can continue to socialise safely.
"Please remember that there is always help and support available if you need it, including via the ‘Ask for Angela’ scheme where women can discreetly alert staff if they feel uneasy about a person they are with and require intervention."
A spokesperson for the bar said: “We have been working closely with the police and licensing authority to resolve the incidents which have occurred recently at Pitcher & Piano. We wholeheartedly support (and indeed encouraged) the decision to close the bar for the forthcoming week, whilst we are all able to assess what further processes we must put in place to protect of our guests and our staff.
"We will be implementing further measures to force out all anti-social activity and clearly demonstrate it has no place in our much loved bar.
"We believe this is a small number of people ruining the fun time for the majority and we ask all guests at P&P and across the area to call out these behaviours in the knowledge you are supported fully by our team and importantly the wider Tunbridge Wells community.”