Sudden death of pub’s former boss aged 64

smoking: Stephen Fearn and Alison Gosling check out their entry in the 1997 Good Pub Guide outside the Fat Cat pub
smoking: Stephen Fearn and Alison Gosling check out their entry in the 1997 Good Pub Guide outside the Fat Cat pub
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A former pub manager who helped put Sheffield on the map as a ‘real ale capital’ has died suddenly aged 64.

For more than 30 years Stephen Fearn was the licensee of the Fat Cat at Kelham Island - the pioneering pub on Alma Street that broke away from the big breweries to become Sheffield’s first real ale free house.

During his tenure the pub won numerous awards for its beer and food, and was regularly feted by the Campaign for Real Ale.

Stephen also led the way with the Fat Cat’s ‘no smoking’ room, one of the first of its kind in the UK, pre-dating the smoking ban of 2007.

He died on December 23 at home at his flat in Kelham Island. It is believed he suffered heart failure.

Duncan Shaw, the pub’s manager, said his death left friends ‘shell-shocked’.

Stephen grew up in Woodseats and Heeley. He ran the bar at the Black Swan on Snig Hill, known as the Mucky Duck, before taking over the Fat Cat in 1983.

His personality was a blend of ‘dry wit’ and a respectful manner, said Duncan.

“Even with all the rejuvenation of the area, Stephen agreed the Fat Cat should stay the same - it needed to be a warm, welcoming pub, whether someone had come in once, twice or a thousand times,” he added.

He retired eight years ago, but still hosted the Fat Cat’s Monday quiz night. Away from ale, Stephen was an enthusiastic music fan and gig-goer as well as a dedicated Sheffield United supporter, and followed the Yorkshire cricket team closely. He was not married, and left no children, but Duncan said: “His immediate family was the Fat Cat’s staff and customers.”

Stephen’s funeral is at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium on January 24 at 11.15am.

The Fat Cat, where the wake is being held, will be closed for the day.