Hollyoaks' Barny Clevely: ‘I prefer selling coffee than being an actor’   

My Sussex Life - Barny Clevely (crct Barny Clevely) at Brighton station 25th April 2022. Picture by

From soap star to CEO - Credit: Jim Holden

He’s starred in Hollyoaks, TV films and dramas but Sussex-based Barney Clevely insists he’s happier building up his network of speciality coffee stores than appearing on the small screen 

'I was the worst detective ever – I never solved a crime,’ Barny Clevely laughs, ‘but I still got promoted.’ Luckily, the 60-year-old isn’t a real policeman even though he has carried the badge on and off his entire career.  

Barny, who lives between Hastings and Rye overlooking the Brede Valley, is best known as Detective Will Davies from TV sitcom Hollyoaks and also appeared in Minder alongside Dennis Waterman and The Bill.  

‘At least they didn’t kill me off in Hollyoaks,’ he says. ‘They promoted me so I could always go back, I suppose.’ 

Not that he’d want to. The truth is the actor, who starred in A Very British Sex Scandal alongside Shakespeare in Love’s Nicholas Le Provost and The House of Eliot, had run out of ego - ‘you need a lot of that to want to act’ - and wanted to focus on his main passion: coffee.  

‘There’s just so much mediocre coffee out there and I wanted to bring a quality product to the market,’ Barny says.  

Having started off selling cups of instant coffee with doughnuts from the back of a bike at Heathrow Airport when he was just starting out in acting in the 1990s, he now owns the FCB Coffee (the FCB stands for Flying Coffee Bean) company with a chain of nine coffee shops across the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) network, including two at Brighton train station.  He plans to open two more across the network this year. 

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‘I wanted to focus on the railway market as I couldn’t get a decent cup of coffee at a train station or on a train,’ the father- of-two explains. ‘I saw that hole in the market and wanted to bring the best single-origin speciality coffee to rail travellers who don’t mind paying an extra 10p or 20p more for a great drink.’ 

In Brighton Barney’s FCB company store is in the middle of the concourse and ‘is a bit of an institution. It’s run by Neville Bridgewater who has an incredible Irish accent and you can hear wherever you are in the station.’ 

The chain holds on to the values of an artisan independent even though it’s a growing business, and as well as their house coffee always carries a limited-edition guest roast.  

‘This is top coffee that sells for £40 a kilo,’ Barney says. ‘I can’t get enough of it. I just love coffee.’ In fact, he starts the day with a macchiato espresso or a mini white flat, and has three double shots throughout the morning.  

‘I can’t drink coffee after 20m though,’ he says, ‘otherwise I can’t sleep.’  

My Sussex Life - Barny Clevely (crct Barny Clevely) at Brighton station 25th April 2022. Picture by

Barny Clevely - Credit: Jim Holden

He once lived next door to Peaky Blinders star Cillian Murphy in London’s Queen’s Park but Barney says he’s happier in the Sussex countryside. ‘Cillian was lovely but he was at another level jetting off to America with his family for roles,’ he says. ‘I was more a jobbing actor, and decided to head to Sussex as I love it here so much. 

‘I went to school here, my daughter is at uni here, and I love Eastbourne, and the walk between the town and Birling Gap is just beautiful. I take my labradoodle Teddie, who’s 11-and-a-half, and we also go to Brighton’s laines, and along the coast.  

‘When I’m in Eastbourne, I go to Pomodoro, the Italian restaurant. It’s fantastic in there – good food, friendly service.’ 

He still gets recognised now and then, but Barney says he prefers being a businessman. ‘I have a lot of people working for me and we came through the pandemic and are focused on getting bigger and sourcing more incredible coffee. When I see someone enjoying one of our speciality roasts it makes me very happy. I’m doing what I love.’