Even if the worst didn’t happen – the pub being damaged or destroyed by bombs – the mere threat of an air raid could severely curtail a pub’s trade. Pubs in the centre of towns – which were more likely to be bombed and to which many customers had to travel – were particularly badly affected.
"As with the 'buses, public houses also have found their evening trade adversely affected now that the sirens are sounding the warnings earlier, the last half-hour of public house hours, normally the busiest time of all, having now become the slackest.Note the date of this report: August 1940. Which was when the Luftwaffe was mostly concentrating on London. Things would get much worse and the drinkers of Walsall doubtless even more reluctant to venture into the town centre in search of a pint.
Where hitherto the reflection has been that there is still time for “just another one." now customers are, quite wisely, more con-cerned about getting to their homes.
Licensees in the centre the town, interviewed by the “Observer." all tell similar stories of how the earlier warnings have left them with comparatively empty bars, smokerooms and lounges.
“As black-out time approaches." said the licensee of one hotel, “you hear customers saying not ‘Well, we'll have another.’ but 'Well, we had better be going before the sirens start.’ After 9.30 p.m. the other night, I had only two people in my lounge at closing time.”
Some of the smaller public houses within easy reach of blocks of working class homes are not finding their trade hit to quite the same extent, but takings of modern public houses on the outskirts, which depend to a considerable extent on visitors, are suffering quite as much as those of places the centre the town."
Walsall Observer, and South Staffordshire Chronicle - Saturday 31 August 1940, page 5.
Things could be worse than just trade being slow:
"Public House Hit
One the few bombs dropped the London area last night hit a public house. Up to noon to-day seven dead had been removed and four other persons were seen to be trapped.
A number of customers was the premises when the bomb fell. Men of the Pioneer Corps are helping the A.R.P to try reach people under the debris.
Falling in the centre the building the blew most of it down leaving only portion of the front walls standing."
Lincolnshire Echo - Tuesday 24 December 1940, page 1.
Now that's really scary. But a fate that befell many pubs during the war.