Surrey Police shut down illegal drinking den

Innsatiable furniture shop or bar?

Innsatiable furniture shop or bar?

We’ve got a revive night on Sat 3rd May..playing old school club anthems… And now we have a resident DJ every fri night till 2am…! — Innsatiable

Opposite the Oxfam Bookshop in Farnham, it looked like a cafe with unsavoury characters always hanging about outside, turns out it was an illegal drinking den.

Pubs have enough these days to contend with, zombie pubcos, cut-throat competition from supermarkets, white van man with deliveries from France, or worse from the many back street counterfeit producers, that the last thing they want is illegal drinking dens setting up shop, in this case what was claimed to be a furniture shop, furniture with no price labels, where the staff could not tell you the price of the furniture, where the arrangements of the tables and chairs had an uncanny resemblance to a bar, where there was even a bar dispensing alcohol.

A local Del Boy had worked out a scam, sell beer mats, and give away free alcohol.

Now let us pause here and reflect for a moment, giving away free alcohol. If this were true, the binge bars in Aldershot would be dry, and the roads would be gridlocked all the way to Farnham.

And what businesses could sustain giving away free beer?

It was a scam. A scam to try and get around licencing regulations.

Local pubs were not happy, not simply because of unfair competition. They were also not happy that people who had been banned from pubs in the town were being served in Innsatiable, the illegal drinking den.

Local residents wee not happy, noise, antisocial behaviour, and the damage that was being done to the reputation of Farnham.

Jeremy Hunt MP was not happy, and raised his concerns in a letter to the relevant government minister.

The intervention by Jeremy Hunt, forced an application for an alcohol licence, which was granted.

Following several police inspections, several breaches of legislation were identified and a closure notice issued, the licence was surrendered to Waverley Borough Council. It was then back to the free alcohol scam.

An investigation by The Morning Advertiser (pub trade rag) exposed the scam.

A successful prosecution was made in The Magistrates Court, on grounds of noise, antisocial behaviour and selling alcohol without a licence. A Closure Order was made to come into immediate effect under Section 19 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001.

Borough Commander Tom Budd:

This has been a protracted battle to ensure Innsatiable is run legally and within the legislation of the Licensing Act to ensure people are protected within safe premises which are run correctly. The closure order should provide reassurance to the local community and curb any anti-social behaviour or breaches of licensing regulations which have caused issues for other publicans in the town and local people. Whilst the numbers of incidents at the establishment were in line with any other licensed premise in Farnham, it is against the law to operate without the correct licence.

I hope the action taken demonstrates the robust stance Surrey Police will take against any unauthorised sale of alcohol, whether it be operating where there is no licence in force or where premises breach their licence or conditions. Innsatiable can re-open to the public as a furniture shop as soon as it complies with the conditions of the order.

Conditions of the Closure Order:

  • Innsatiable is closed immediately to the public until such time as all alcohol has been removed from the premises
  • Once all alcohol has been removed from the premise, the property may re-open
  • Once the premise is re-opened, no alcohol is permitted on the property

According to recent posts on their facebook page, the illegal drinking den say they will be back, business as usual, using the premises next door.

IN LIFE YOU MUST LEARN. We have, we will not make the same silly mistakes again. We have now changed our business model and will make it very clear that All our alcohol is, indeed, free. FREE.

But, if YOU WANT TO, You have the freedom to buy items that we sell…, beer mats , posters. Yes, in exchange for money. That’s because we are a retail shop, with retail items to sell….IF YOU WANT TO BUY THEM, DO. IF YOU DONT, DONT.

To be honest, if I fail in this measure of our new outlook, new business model…… I clearly have missed something.

In the meantime, 12 the Woolmead will remain shut in accordance with the closure notice.

On a new note, CLUB INNSATIABLE , 11 the Woolmead, the new, improved, happy smiley, company, with new retail items for sale, large notices that no one can miss, informative staff that WE DO NOT SELL ALCOHOL, ITS FREE emblazoned into their speech dept in the grey matter, will open for trade and for you all to come and watch the World Cup with us on our new 100 inch screen, and. 2 large Tvs.

Anyone knowingly involved selling alcohol, can be prosecuted for providing a licensable activity without permission under section 136 of the Licensing Act 2003.

A number of questions remain unanswered:

  • Where was the alcohol coming from? White van man shipping across from France? Back street counterfeiters?
  • Has HMRC mounted an investigation? Tax, VAT, Excise Duty?
  • Were the staff legally employed?
  • Operating without planning consent for change of use?

Supporters of the illegal drinking den, have been abusing commentators on I Love farnham Surrey facebook page. If nothing else, it serves to devalue their case and gives an idea of the clientèle of this illegal drinking den. Do they not realise they are opening themselves up for police investigation and prosecution? Also begs the question, why are the administrators of the facebook page, not barring them. Or for that matter, facebook not deleting their accounts?

Now it may well be, as Innsataiable claim, they have fewer problems of violence and disorder than other pubs in the town. This is easily verifiable by the simple act of filing a Freedom of Information request with Surrey Police for the period Innsatiable has been in operation. And if, as Innsatiable claim, there are pubs that are centres of violence, then those premises should be served with Closure Orders, and questions need to be raised why this has not happened.

But this misses the point, and misses the point of all those posting abuse on facebook, and to be fair to the proprier of Innsatiable, he is not one of them, the police did not issue the Closure Order, a Court did, and the facts were tested in Court. If there was a Miscarriage of Justice, then Appeal. It also misses the point, of an unlicensed premises.

And to be fair to Innsatiable, they were not selling, oops giving away, high strength beers, which fuels violence.

They also make the valid point, it is not they who are killing pubs, it is the zombie pubcos.

The price they were selling beer, oops beer mats, was £2-75. Go to The Queen Hotel in Aldershot, quality real ales (not rubbish like Fosters) typically around £2-50 a pint.

The reason for a licence, and only making alcohol available on licensed premises, is for society to have some control over the dispensing of alcohol, and Innsatiable has already identified why, the violence they say is commonplace in pubs in the town.

If Innsataible wish to move forward, the solution is in their hands. Apply for a licence (though with the reputation now acquired would probably have some trouble convincing the licencing committee) and clean up your act (be selective in the type of clientèle you are serving, and yes, people did cross the road to avoid those hanging around outside).

Some have said, this is a disruptive businesses model. It is no more a disruptive business model, than Uber is to black taxi cabs.

And neither is it a war on small businesses.

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One Response to “Surrey Police shut down illegal drinking den”

  1. keithpp Says:

    Contrary to the noise and abuse its supporters have been generating, no one I spoke to in Farnham was unhappy to see it closed. Indeed people were surprised it had got away with it so long, and were glad to see it closed down. Which tallies with the press coverage on the front page of the Farnham Herald.

    Rumours that it was re-opening seem unfounded, as it was closed when I walked past.

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