Tuesday 27 November 2018

Boston Beer Shortage

1941 seems to have been a bad year for drinkers. All over the country there were shortages - or threatened shortages - of beer. But what was the best way to deal with the beer shortage?

One response was to reduce the hours that pubs were open. It makes sense. Less time for punters to drink would automatically reduce their consumption. But there was another option: "customer-rationing".

Rationing To Be Necessary?
HOTELS and public houses in Boston are facing a beer shortage, and it has so threatened existing supplies in the borough that many licensees are having to curtail their selling hours.

Pencilled notices to the effect that "beer is short" have made their appearance in different licensed houses and on the door of one is the notice: “Open at 8 p.m.” This later time of opening is, presumably, to conserve the existing stocks of beer for the busier days in the week of Wednesday and Saturday.

On Monday one hotel exhibited a notice. "Closed to-day." and was apparently suffering from the effects of the week-end "rush trade.”

The Standard” was informed this week that there is every likelihood of a meeting of the Licensed Victuallers’ Association being held to discuss the present emergency and to formulate a universal plan by means of which licensed houses in the borough can deal with the difficulty. It is too early yet to say with any certainty what lines will be adopted in the beer economy which will be necessitated, but it seems almost definite that a "customer-rationing" scheme will have to be introduced.

This has just been begun in Carlisle, for instance, on the basis of supplying a fixed maximum to regular customers and a smaller fixed maximum to “strangers.”

One local prominent wine and spirit merchant told the Standard this week: "I suspect that the shortage of beer has arisen as a result of the extra money now being earned by work people. They have not been able to spend the money so easily in confectionery, cigarettes, etc., since they have been difficult to obtain and the demand for beer has grown enormously. I have been showered under with orders from local ‘houses' who have been doing big business and whose stocks have been almost exhausted and it isn’t at all easy to cope with the demands. It seems to me that a meeting of the Licensed Victuallers Association will have to be held to determine what we are going to do.”"
Lincolnshire Standard and Boston Guardian - Saturday 12 July 1941, page 8.
I suppose setting a maximun amount of beer customers could by was a fair way of rationing beer. But it all sounds rather ad-hoc and arbitrary. I can also imagine that giving locals a larger allowance of beer might have caused some resentment amongst "strangers".

One of the ironies of the war was that, while people had plenty of money due to high wartime wages, there was little available for them to spend it on. Most everything was rationed or in short supply.

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