Britain’s grumpiest landlord offers no welcome or WiFi, makes all customers – including Prince Harry – pull their own pints and has a ‘nasty’ cat called Hitler.
Steve Cotten, 59, the eccentric owner of the ‘maddest pub in England’, says he was quite happy drinking by himself until crowds began to flock to his boozer in Exmoor, Devon.
He saved the Poltimore Arms from closure seven years ago and has since built up a reputation for being ‘off-grid’, with no phone or television and bizarre decor including multiple pianos and a dead ferret stuck to the wall.
The pub offers just one gin, one whiskey, a few spirits and a few beers and has no card machine – but Steve has no idea of the prices and takes what customers offer.
Despite its quirks – or more likely because of them – Steve’s establishment has become a firm favourite with locals, celebrities and even members of the royal family during hunting season – but no matter who walks through the doors, the landlord says he is equally rude to everyone.
Admitting his career in precision engineering did not prepare him for his new job, 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 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 round 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.’
Despite all of the famous faces who have stepped foot into The Poltimore Arms over the years, Steve insists there is only one true star – his cat Frederick Albert Hitler, who has become so popular, he now 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 in the rescue centre 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.’
The landlord, who models himself on famous outlaw Dick Turpin, says he has never made any money from his venture – but it doesn’t matter to him as he believes he has created something special.
Steve, who has been raided by HMRC six times after they believed the pub was more profitable than it actually is, said: ‘I was declared bankrupt as they thought I owed about £300k. 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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