New Secretary of State for Health and South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt is calling on the Government to take action against a “furniture shop” in Farnham that is giving away free alcohol to the public from its unlicensed bar, writes Adam Pescod. Innsatiable, the controversial venue owned by entrepreneur Simon Atkins, has sparked outrage among licensees and pub industry leaders because it is serving alcohol without a licence. However, Hunt, who was named the new Health Secretary in the Government's Cabinet reshuffle earlier this week, is to write to the Home Office urging it to close the legal loophole that has allowed Atkins to operate in this way. Meanwhile, two of the pub industry’s leading trade organisations have claimed Innsatiable is “damaging for the reputation of the trade”. The Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR) and British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) have raised concerns about the venue, and want the local authority and police to take a closer look. “There will always be loopholes in the law and the licensing authorities and planning authorities will catch up,” said the ALMR’s chief executive Nick Bish. “The concern is that in this case the standards of responsible alcohol retailing do not seem to be operating, and nearby hard-working operators may well worry, not for their trade, but for the trade’s reputation.” Meanwhile, the BBPA has urged the local authority to conduct a more thorough investigation of Innsatiable. A spokesperson said: “The licensing regime is there to regulate the trade in a fair way, but this sort of situation can bring the system into disrepute. The local licensing authority needs to take a much closer look at this. “If a legal loophole is being exploited then the Home Office must act to plug it.” Atkins said it was “interesting” that Hunt is to write to the Home Office about Innsatiable. “It will be of massive interest to me when that comes up,” he said. He also slammed suggestions that he is an irresponsible retailer as “crazy” and questioned how his venue could be seen as damaging to the pub industry. “I am well aware of irresponsible drinking,” said Atkins. “But how is it irresponsible that I am turning away drunk people who have been drinking in licensed premises beforehand? People are up in arms that I don’t have a licence but I don’t need a licence.” Last week, Atkins rubbished claims made on the PMA’s forum pages that he was breaking the law, and branded one forum user a “foolish little man” for accusing him of acting illegally. The Institute of Licensing (IoL), however, has admitted that Atkins is not operating in a way that breaches the Licensing Act. The IoL’s training and qualifications officer Jim Hunter said: “Many of the posts on the forum seem to indicate the police and/or local authority should act against Innsatiable, but what action is there to take?”

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