Innsatiable, run by entrepreneur Simon Atkins, is primarily a furniture shop but offers customers drinks from its free bar between 12noon and 11.45pm.
Atkins told the PMA the public do not have to buy any furniture from the shop to be entitled to a free drink, and that he operates a “zero-tolerance” policy towards alcohol-related violence.
Other pubs in Farnham have claimed that Innsatiable is attracting the “wrong sort of crowd” such as people who have been banned from the town’s licensed premises through Farnham Pubwatch.
Atkins believes he does not need a licence for the bar, and plans to open another five stores this year, with an additional 13 planned for 2013, and six more in early 2014.
He also sells beer mats at the venue, which he uses to promote his business.
“The bee in everyone’s bonnet is that we are offering free alcoholic drinks from a free bar,” said Atkins.
“Everyone (who comes in) thinks it is a great idea — my staff are very welcoming.”
Responding to reports that drinks were only free upon purchase of an item of furniture, Atkins said: “I don’t work in that way. It is not the way I do things.”
Farnham Pubwatch chairman and licensee of the Jolly Sailor, Don Laight, said: “We are told by the licensing authority that what he is doing is not illegal because he is not selling alcohol, he is giving it away. There doesn’t seem to be any control on it, so there is nothing anyone can do to stop him.”
Tom Richards, licensee of the Nelson Arms, said: “I don’t have a problem with it from a competition point of view but it is encouraging people barred from pubs in the area through Pubwatch to go there, which I think is irresponsible.”
Andy Grimsey, partner at licensing law firm Poppleston Allen, said: “Any free alcohol is not licensable but the alcohol has to be free for every person it is supplied to.”