Tunbridge Wells bar temporarily closes amid suspected 'spiking' probe after seven people fall ill

Some customers told police they suspected their drinks had been spiked (stock photo) Credit: PA

A Kent bar has closed its doors temporarily after seven people became ill in one night and reported suspected 'spiking' incidents to police.

Kent Police asked for Pitcher and Piano Tunbridge Wells' licence to be reviewed after reports of customers being hospitalised following nights out.

The police application followed reports received by officers that seven people became unwell at the premises between midnight and 3am on Sunday, November 21.

A police statement said: "Those reporting the incidents suspected their drinks might have been tampered with and, in two instances thought they may have had needles used on them to administer substances.

"No further offences were reported against the victims, who are in their late teens and 20s, and none of the complainants witnessed or recovered needles."

Kent Police added that 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.

It comes after nationwide concern about 'spiking' incidents at bars and clubs where victims reported fell ill after suspecting they had been injected with needles.

Police asked the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s licensing committee to review the licence, raising concerns about the venue's management and existing security measures.

The authority issued the venue with a licence suspension from Wednesday, November 24, to Wednesday, December 1.

The bar's owners have voluntarily closed the venue for the week to introduce safety measures, including improved CCTV and lighting, provision of cup covers for drinks, and metal detectors at the entrance. 

A spokesperson for the bar said the venue had been working closely with the police and licensing authority to resolve the incidents.

They added: "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.”

District Commander for Tunbridge Wells, Chief Inspector Lizzie Jones, said police welcomed the 'constructive' cooperation of the premises' owners, and the safety steps being taken, she added

Police wanted to make Tunbridge Wells' bars 'hostile places' for people seeking to exploit others, CI Jones said.

Local hospitality staff were being encouraged to recognise the signs of spiking and other criminal behaviour.

CI Jones encouraged people to stay vigilant and report suspicious incidents to bar security on nights out.

She added that women can use the ‘Ask for Angela’ scheme to discreetly alert staff if they feel uneasy about a person they are with and require intervention.