Innsatiable appetite for courting controversy

By Mike Berry

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Premises licence License Simon atkins

Mike Berry: "There’s likely to be more than a touch of schadenfreude among the licensee community now that Innsatiable is closed"
Mike Berry: "There’s likely to be more than a touch of schadenfreude among the licensee community now that Innsatiable is closed"
Innsatiable — the controversial “free bar” based in Farnham, Surrey that first came to our attention in summer 2012 — is back in the headlines.

I wonder whether owner Simon Atkins is a fan of Oscar Wilde. He certainly seems to prescribe to the author’s view that “there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”.

Atkins is applying for a premises licence (again) after being issued with a closure order by magistrates following — according to local police — a number of licensing breaches.

Or, as Atkins calls them, “silly mistakes”. It’s the latest chapter in the bar’s somewhat chequered history since opening two years ago.

PMA​ readers will remember that Atkins is certainly no shrinking violet, revelling in his ‘maverick’ status of sticking two fingers up to the licensing authority and courting controversy along the way with his apparent disregard for those in the licensed trade playing by the rules.


He boasted back in 2012 of grand plans to expand his empire across the south of England and even further north under a franchise model. We found him an interesting and perceptive character and invited him to speak at our MA300 multiple operator club on his innovative business model and future plans, an invitation Atkins accepted but then — disappointingly — failed to fulfil.

No matter, we continued to follow his progress from afar; humble pie was served and eaten when Atkins originally applied for a premises licence in October 2012, following uproar from the trade and even an intervention by the local MP. Atkins, of course, didn’t see it that way — claiming he wanted to show “greedy” brewers and pubcos that they couldn’t keep charging high beer prices.


That licence was surrendered eight months ago, in October 2013, and since then Innsatiable had reverted to its original model — a retail store offering free drinks where customers are invited to purchase furniture or beer mats.

So there’s likely to be more than a touch of schadenfreude​ among the licensee community now the site is closed and the application for a new premises licence has been submitted.

Objections will be raised no doubt from local publicans and residents, so it will be interesting to see what approach the licensing authority takes when considering the application and what conditions — if any — are imposed on any subsequent licence.


From what we’ve heard, it doesn’t sound like Atkins has done much to ingratiate himself with fellow publicans in the town, and Innsatiable is not part of the local Pubwatch scheme. It’s easy to understand why they might be upset at Atkins exploiting a licensing loophole while they strive to do everything by the book and remain compliant.

On the bar’s Facebook page​, Atkins has been in typically spiky mood, claiming other licensed retailers are “jealous” of the competition from Innsatiable and this was the driving force behind the “witchhunt” which led to the bar closing.

It’s probably fair to say they won’t be settling their differences over a pint — free or paid for — any time soon.

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