Steve Cotten, 59, is unlike any other pub owner in Britain. It’s not just the fact that he offers no welcome and that there’s no WiFi. What sets his pub apart is the fact that all customers are required to serve themselves, even billionaires and Royals.
Watch Steve talk more about the “maddest pub in England” here:
Video credit: Rumble
Steve had saved the Poltimore Arms pub from closing down seven years ago and was quite happy enjoying the booze by himself. And then people started flocking in and he soon gained a reputation for being “off-grid.” The bar has no phones or television and even has bizarre decor such as a dead ferret stuck to the wall. Oh, and there’s his “nasty” cat called Hitler.
He only offers one gin, one whiskey, and only a few spirits and beers. The pub doesn’t even have a card machine. Steve has no clue about the prices but takes what customers offer.
It’s likely these quirks that have made Steve’s establishment a go-to place for locals, celebrities, and even royals during hunting season. Yet no matter who enters the pub, he’s equally rude to all. After all, a career in precision engineering did nothing to prepare him to run a pub.
Steve said: “I was running the village shop seven years ago when the chance to take over the pub came up. This would have gone if I hadn’t stepped in. I waited for the last day and then thought I will do this. Everyone around me said it was a bad idea and I shouldn’t touch it.
“But I thought that’s even more reason to give it a go. Most pubs are closing as they try and turn into restaurants and have electricity on 24 hours a day.
“I can live without electricity. I had no customers at the beginning. It was fantastic and I sat by the fire every night getting drunk. Then people started coming in. I never told anyone I was open. I said to the first one ‘what do you want?’ But they kept coming.”
He added: “Everyone knows there is only one rule in the pub and that is everyone is equal. We have had the richest people in the world here during the shooting season, literally billionaires who land their helicopters on the field and I treat them all with the same disdain and disapproval.
“They all love it though. No-one else talks to them like crap like I do. Everyone pours their own drinks and I often get them to work behind the bar.
“Once we had a chap, the Duke of this or that, at the end of the bar who was being a bit rude that he wasn’t being served. I walked around the bar and he said ‘do you not know who I am?’ I told him I didn’t care.
“He said he was the Duke of whatever, so I physically got down on all fours and licked his boots. I called him all sorts and he absolutely loved it.
“Prince Harry was a really nice chap. He used to come in with his friends before he ran off with Megan Markle and I would make them pour their own drinks. They had never done a day’s work in their lives until they came in here. But they loved it.
“Damien Hirst was another regular visitor. He didn’t drink though but his ex-wife Maia used to join him and she would knock back 8-9 pints of the strongest ales.”
But for Steve, there is only one real celebrity in his pub and that’s his cat, Frederick Albert Hitler. His cat is now so popular he even has his own Facebook page.
Steve added: “In the last week alone he has picked up a further 500 followers. When I rescued the pub I went into the rescue center and said can I have the nastiest, most hostile cat you have. He was feral and totally insane.
“He would rip me to shreds every night and attack anything that moved but has calmed down over the years. He is fine with customers now but still scares off a lot of the dogs.”
Steve says he hasn’t made any money from the pub but it doesn’t matter because what’s more important is that he created something special.
That didn’t stop the HMRC from raiding his pub six times though as they believed that it was more profitable than he let on. That’s why he styles himself after the famous outlaw Dick Turpin.
He said: “I was declared bankrupt as they thought I owed about £300k($390k). But I had no money and was already pretty much bankrupt so it didn’t make much difference to me.
“I never had any ambition to run a pub. I was categorically the most useless landlord in the world and I still am. I have no idea what is going on but I know what is wrong with every other pub, so that’s a start.”
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