The Great Harry pub in Wellington Street, Woolwich, was completely destroyed yesterday in a suspected petrol bomb attack just after 10.20pm.
Emergency crews reportedly struggled to get through a mob of around 200 and came under attack as they tried to fight the blaze at the pub and nearby offices and shops in Woolwich New Road.
Firefighters remained at the scene throughout the night before finally leaving at just after 9am this morning after making the remains safe.
Eddie Gershon, a spokesman for Wetherspoons said the incident at the Great Harry, which opened in 2000, was “horrendous for the local community and the economy”.
He said that the pub was closed at the time of the attack and that other minor incidents were reported at other pubs in the country.
“The Great Harry has been burnt to the ground and there’s a number of other Wetherspoons pubs that we have closed. There was nothing over the top that happened, nothing compared to Woolwich, a few incidents but we decided to close them to be safe," he said.
“It is a horrendous situation but the main thing in Woolwich and at our pubs across the country is that no-one, including staff, were injured.”
Some 40 staff who worked at the Great Harry are now out of work, he said, but efforts will be made to relocate them to other pubs owned by the chain.
But he said it was “too early to say” whether the pub would be rebuilt or reopened in the area and would not be pressed on financial implications for the company.
He added: “It is a very sad situation but there is not a lot we can do about it. Our staff and the locals they serve are very distressed by what has happened. The situation was out of our hands. Our main focus is the safety of our customers and staff.”
Pubs under siege
Other pubs were under siege in Croydon, Camden and central London, according to reports.
Alan McCabe, the manager of a pub in Croydon, described the area as “an absolute war zone”.
Beds and Bars group managing director Keith Knowles told BigHospitality's sister publication The Morning Advertiser that the group had closed all London sites last night. He said: "some on advice of police, some through being prudent. Camden, and our City site were worst affected.
"I think we need to be talking to Government here on guidance and indeed effects. No business can sustain this long term. We need to work together to get on top of this right from the start."
View the video of the fire at the Great Harry here