Legendary Sheffield pub celebrates 40th birthday - but what is the secret to its success?

The Fat Cat opened in Kelham Island over 40 years ago and while the landscape of the area has changed drastically, the nationally renowned pub hasn’t.

Thursday, 16th September 2021, 6:00 am
Ed took over ownership of the pub in 2014.

Dave Wickett bought the pub in 1981 and owned it until his death in 2014.

It was reportedly the only free house for sale in Sheffield, and although it was in a then run-down area of the city, it was to become a huge success.

Ed Wickett, who took over from his dad Dave, told the Telegraph: “Everyone said it wouldn’t work.

Many of the hand pull beers from Kelham Island Brewery, which opened in 1990.

"When this was set up there was factories and a red light district, it wasn’t a great place.

“Some companies wouldn’t deliver to us, they said we would fail to pay. But on the first day people were queuing down the street.”

In many respects the Fat Cat was ahead of its time. It served vegetarian food from the start and most of the seating areas were always non-smoking – 26 years before the smoking ban became law.

Ed added: “It’s barely changed in 40 years. It had a good formula from the beginning.

The Fat Cat opened on August 21 1981

"Everyone feels comfortable, it’s relaxed and welcoming. We have people of all ages. You can come in and have a decent pint and meal for a relatively cheap price.

"Just because nothing changes doesn’t mean we are lazy about it. We can’t let it get grotty."

The pub has an interesting history. Its first pint was pulled by legendary footballer Derek Dooley.

In 1990, Dave set up the Kelham Island Brewery in the pub car park – the first independent brewery in Sheffield for almost a century. In 2007, during the Sheffield floods, the Fat Cat was closed for a month.

Ed said that the entire seating area was flooded, as was the cellar. A marker still on the wall outside shows how deep the flood waters were.

But the venue has also been heavily involved in Sheffield’s cultural scene – the Everly Pregnant Brothers have performed on the roof of the toilets twice, to crowds of thousands.

The Arctic Monkeys also stopped off at the pub for a home-town gig after party in 2018 and signed a bottle for staff. And the pub has been in CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide for more than 30 years, with a dedicated following of real ale enthusiasts.

Ed said: "Going forward, we aren’t going to change anything. Why would we? (a nearby customer vocally shared his agreement)

"We keep it clean and keep it tidy, that’s what’s important. We keep the same high quality standards.”