Shut down: The Greenwich pub being run by its regulars

Welcome to the Duchess Bar

An east Greenwich pub has had its licence withdrawn by councillors after council officers found its management had left the premises to be run by its customers.

The Duchess on Woolwich Road – formerly the Ship & Billet and Frog & Radiator – has been closed since January after a series of violent incidents.

In September, most of the pub’s windows were smashed by a customer, and when council officers visited to investigate, they were told its designated supervisor had left and discovered the pub was apparently being run by a drunken customer. “It appeared almost that the locals were running the pub,” the officers said in a report.

The following month, they were told by the pub’s licence holder that he planned to close and redevelop the pub, but in January council offers found the pub still being run by customers and serving well after its 2am licence.

Welcome to the Duchess Bar

The report continues: “[Name redacted] claimed to be running the premises in the absence of her mother. Her speech was slurred and she smelt of drink. She beckoned the licensing officer behind the bar area where he came face to face with a large, shaven-headed male. Believing that he was in charge of the premises, he introduced himself as a licensing officer. His reply was: ‘Does that make you fucking important?’

“Realising that he was a customer, the licensing officer changed his attitude. His response: ‘I couldn’t give two fucks who you are!’ With that, he picked up a pint glass full of beer… and stormed off into the public area.

“The licensing officer returned to speak to [name redacted] who obviously had no knowledge of running licensed premises. She was unaware who the licence holders were as she had never met them. She had no idea what a Designated Premises Supervisor was, nor the opening and closing time of the premises. Asked when she planned to close for the evening, she replied: ‘When I feel like it!'”

Welcome to the Duchess Bar

The Duchess was one of the last of the old-style pubs along the main road through east Greenwich, after the demolition of the Victoria and the Old Friends, the conversion of the William IV and revamp of The Crown. It is unlikely to be missed – but will anyone take on the prominent corner site and try to revive the old pub?

River Ale House

There is much better news for Greenwich drinkers a little further down Woolwich Road – a micropub, the River Ale House, has been given both planning and licensing permission by Greenwich Council. It will replace the Under Cover Experience lingerie retailer.

Micropubs – small one-room bars concentrating on real ale – first emerged in Kent, and there are already seven in south-east London, including The Long Pond in Eltham. Here’s a pub crawl linking six of them – although with the River Ale House and another newcomer, The Kentish Belle in Bexleyheath, it may need a bit of a rewrite….

6 comments

  1. fromthemurkydepths

    Sounds like a fun place to be honest 😀

    Can I be the first to say Antic. Would match their format. It’s got huge potential really in that spot.

    Of course, improving that bloody junction outside, as well as walking links to and from all the new builds and hotels on the Peninsula would boost footfall.

  2. Mary Mills (@maryorelse)

    Ship and Billett was a really old pub – don’t known when it started but on most old maps there is a blob on that corner – and didn’t it use to be on the destination blind of some buses. It clearly took over some characteristics of the late Old Friends – which I remember most clealry, not only for its dodgy posters but because you could smell its gentsfrom the block of flats behind it

  3. Trevor (The River Ale House)

    Thanks for the mention Darryl. We are nearly over the numerous hurdles that have had to be jumped before any work can start on converting the premises, so maybe a June opening is a realistic expectation from here. Our Facebook page will be getting regular updates as soon as the conversion begins and anyone who wishes to put their head in the door at any point to say hello and check on progress will be very welcome.

  4. Darryl

    Thanks for commenting Trevor – I had hoped to run the River Ale House as its own story but never found the time. Might well stick my head round the corner at some point!