Monday 17 December 2018

The Backdoor Method

More about beer shortages, pub oipening times and beer rationing.It was clearly a hot topic in 1941, given the number of articles I've found dedicated to it.

One response to the shortage of beer was for pubs not to open. You can the the landlord's point. If yuou didn't have any beer to sell, why would you bother opening? Beer made up the bulk of a pub's trade, especially in wartime when the supply of wine and spirits was even more limited than that of beer.

Sometimes it was the publicans themsleves who decided not to open. But in some areas it was the licensing authorities that tried to restrict pub opening hours. The reasoning was simple: if pubs are open for fewee hours, the limited supply of beer would last longer.

Brewers and publicans often weren't happy with this latter approach. They alreadt resented the limited hours they were allowed to open. And probably worried that, as in WW I, supposedly temporary reduced opening hours would eventually became fixed by law.
The efforts of Leamington Licensing Justices to remedy conditions resulting from the beer shortage have broken down. On Monday. Mr. C. K. Langley, on behalf of the Birmingham and Midland Counties Wholesale Brewers' Association, informed the magistrates that his clients were unable to accept the recommendation that licensed premises in the borough should be open from 12 noon to 2 p.m,. and from 8 to 10 p.m.

Mr. Langley said that his Association represented 73 out of a total of 104 licensed houses in the town — in effect practically all the brewer owners. The statement made by the Chairman of the Leamington Justices on the previous Monday had been regarded as of such importance that a special meeting of his Association was held on Thursday.

Explaining why the Association could not accept the recommendation. Mr. Langley said: "My Association feel very strongly the licensed houses must be ready to serve the needs of the public, and it is the needs of the public which should be the first and only consideration. Further, they hold that the question of an alteration in the permitted hours is a national and not a local matter.

"They feel that any local arrangement is impracticable. In the first place, it would lead to border difficulties, and quite possibly a rush of customers to and from neighbouring licensing divisions. It could not be made legally binding on any individual licensee, nor on any club, and incidentally, it must be remembered that Excise licences granted under the Licensing Act (i.e.. bottle shops) are not licensed premises within the meaning of that Act.

"They are not, therefore, subject to the Justices' supervision, and are not subject to the right of police entry. I think there are some establishments of this nature In the town, but even if not. there are at any rate a number in other parts of the county.

"To fix hours arbitrarily, therefore, might work unfairly as between one licensee and another, and as between one brewer and another, and would not, we think, lead to what believe to be the desire of the Justices. It seems, therefore. to those whom I represent, that the abnormal position with regard to supply and demand which undoubtedly exists at the present time, is a matter for Internal arrangement amongst the Trade itself, and it is for the Trade so to allocate their supplies to serve the public in the best possible manner.

"Differing conditions apply to every house, and the carrying out of the business of a particular house must be a matter for each individual licence-holder having regard to his particular problems.

"Put quite shortly, as servants of the public, those whom I represent cannot concur in anything which might take away from the public the rights which Parliament has given to them, and cannot therefore agree to curtailment of hours. They know that the public are at present suffering from a shortage of beer.

"They are of opinion that its proper supply is a matter of great importance to the public. Finally, they desire to give assurance through me to this Court, and through this Court to the public, that they are sparing, and have spared, no efforts to give the best service that their brewing capacity allows.”

The Justices' Clerk (Mr. S. Simmonds) remarked that during the last war the Liquor Control Board made a similar order, and it worked satisfactorily. On behalf of the Licensed Victuallers' Association. Mr. W. A. Coleman said they felt there was a great deal of force in Mr. Langley’s statement. At the same time members of the Association had always done their best to fall In with the Justices' wishes as far as they reasonably could. The licensed victuallers had certain contractual obligations, which must be fulfilled.

It was impossible for the Association's committee to lay down any general or specified rule, but far as was consistent with the wishes of the Justices his clients would advise their members to comply as far as possible.

The Chief Constable (Mr. A. E. Young) said he appreciated the difficulty under which the brewers and publicans were suffering, and he would do all he could to assist them. To get a true perspective one had to recall the position as it was before the Justices' recommendation was made. Individual licensees were effecting their own forms of curtailment of hours. They were frequently shutting their premises, and were introducing their own rationing system which resulted in a "backdoor method.”

Regular customers were served at backdoor. He deprecated this most strongly, because it did not allow of fair distribution, and, what was more important, police supervision was almost entirely counteracted. The Chief Constable wished it to known that he strongly objected to this, and that he hoped it would not recur in whatever system was adopted. Did he understand that the licensees would

undertake to keep open during permitted hours in future, and not close when stocks ran out?

The Chairman (Mr A. H Swadling): Or when they please.

Mr. Langley said his clients deprecated the backdoor method, and would give an indication of their wishes to individual licensees. Mr. Coleman remarked that the licensees would advised that this method must cease. The Chairman said that the Justices' recommendation was intended to secure a fair distribution among the public. On Sunday. June 29. personally inspected 18 licensed houses, and 15 were

closed. The three which remained open were packed to the doors. The licensee had no supervision of any description, and, further, drinks were being handed out to people on the footpath.

There was much unseemly conduct, and he was sure that the Police were not in a position to carry out proper supervision of the licensed premises in such circumstances. Next day he made a similar tour, and found that some houses which he had found closed on Sunday were now open. Regular customers were being served, such as members of sick and dividend societies. etc., but there was no beer for the general public.

In such conditions, the Justices felt it essential to make a recommendation in an attempt to improve matters. There was not the slightest doubt that when publicans obtained their supplies they would find that it spreading them over seven days there would not be sufficient to warrant opening for 8.5 hours day. The Justices felt it should have been possible to effect some rationing by opening for four hours a day only.

They had no power, however, to enforce their recommendation, and must therefore leave it to the licensees to carry on as best they could. It must be made clear that a repetition of recent unseemly scenes would not be tolerated.

Mr. Langley: We are only too anxious that the licensed houses should be conducted in the best way. and that the best possible service should be available to the public. In our considered view the suggestions you made would not lead to that "best service.”

In a statement made on Tuesday, the Chief Constable said he desired to remove misconceptions as to the attitude of the Police regarding the Justices' abortive attempt to remedy conditions arising from the beer shortage in the borough by recommending a curtailment of opening hours.

Mr. Young said appreciated the difficulty under which the brewers and publicans were operating, and intended to do all in the power of the police to assist them. In order to get a true perspective. however, one had to recall conditions as they were before the Justices made their recommendations.

Individual licensees were effecting their own form of curtailment of hours and were frequently shutting their premises. In many cases they acted commendably in attempting to ease the position by some form of rationing.

"However." Mr. Young continued. " I deprecate most strongly a particular form of rationing known as the "backdoor method." In carrying out this method, front doors of premises were closed, and favoured customers allowed to go to private entrances where they were supplied with beer.

Not only does this prevent the exercise of proper police supervision, but it adds to the problems of an already difficult situation. I wish to repeat that the police are anxious to help the brewers and publicans in effecting a fair distribution of beer, but it is necessary that some of the undesirable features which manifested themselves in recent experiences in Leamington should eliminated."
Warwick and Warwickshire Advertiser - Friday 11 July 1941, page 1.
It's not strange that landlords would give preferential treatment to their regulars. That's where they earned their living, selling to repeat customers. Were they entering by the back door and drinking on the premises, or were they taking the beer away? It's not totally clear from the article.

A severe beer shortage doesn't seem to have been a problem for all the war. Articles about it are mostly from 1941 and 1942 and then after the war ended, in 1946 and 1947. When, once again, some pubs didn't bother opening when they had no beer.

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