Monday 18 November 2019

Inside a 1920s bar (part one)

I'm still banging on about "The Art and Practice of Innkeeping". Except we've moved above ground to the bar.

This section is slightly frustrating.

"The following are the usual compartments of the Bars: American, Hotel, Saloon, Public, Jug and Bottle, and Off License.

A Private Bar is becoming a thing of the past.

The main difference between them is in regard to price and company. The leading features common to some are the lack of comfort, space and ventilation; it is unnecessary to describe each Bar in detail."
"The Art and Practice of Innkeeping" by Alexander Francis Part, published by Heinemann London, 1922, page 208.

It is actually necessary to describe all the bars. Almost 100 years later, what they were is no longer common knowledge.

The list of bar types seems very London-orientated. I can't imagine there were many American bars in Bolton or Bradford. There are also many types of bar missing, including such common ones as Lounge, Smoke Room or Vault.

And what's the difference between a Jug and Bottle and an Off Licence? Surely they're both for off sales?

Here are some more details about exactly what a bar should look like:

"The equipment of a Bar will vary with the class of house very considerably, and also in town and country.

We shall assume that the bar is to be, partly, a buffet and that it will have a long counter.

This counter should be about 2 ft. 6 in. wide to allow of plates and sandwich and other dishes being placed upon it. The panels of the front, sloping inwards, should be as plain as possible, and dull polished. At its foot should be a rail, not of brass, which requires too much manual labour. The counter should be rather high, on the customer's side say 3 ft. 6 in. to 3 ft. 9 in., to avoid the breakage of glass, and there is nothing better for the top than a thick, highly polished, bright, plain linoleum, finished off with beading, to protect the edges.

Who has not, when consumed by hunger or thirst, gazed with veneration upon a Barmaid as "she moves a goddess and as she looks a Queen" upon the invisible Olympian heights she occupies?

The back, or serving side of the counter, should have a raised platform, running its full length, and should have at least two lift-up flaps, and a contrivance to hold them back on occasion. Nothing should be allowed to obstruct the flap.

If the bar is to serve one class of customer only, and this is highly desirable, it should be, mainly, divided into two sections, one to be used for food and one for liquor."
"The Art and Practice of Innkeeping" by Alexander Francis Part, published by Heinemann London, 1922, pages 208 - 209.
That's a bit mean not having a brass foot rail. I'm glad that recommendation has been widely ignored. A linoleum bar top seems a bit cheap, too. What's wrong with good old-fashioned wood?

Does anyone still have a raised platform at the serving side of the bar? I seem to remember seeing this years ago in a crowded Dublin pub.


Scoats said...

How would an "American" bar be different?

A Brew Rat said...

What the heck is an American bar?

Chas said...

Fascinating about the finishes mentioned, commenting as a French Polisher by trade who has spent time refurbishing public houses and their bars by hand, things hadn't changed much up until the late '70s when polished lino tops were still a thing of indestructible beauty and unlike the mahogany bars there was no grain to fill up with the lacquer before the shine started to build and if the finish started to wear, the polish could be stripped off without melting the lino if you knew how to handle the materials. Just lovely. Many years later I remember an arty farty bar installing a slate counter top and every time a customer put a glass down with kerplomb it would shatter! Nothing cheapo about lino.

Ron Pattinson said...

Brew Rat,

I think an American Bar is a posh cocktail bar.

Ron Pattinson said...


I really appreciate your first-hand observations. Always liked a wooden top, myself. But you provide good arguments for lino. Not stuff, as an average punter, I would have ever noticed myself.

Chas said...

Thanks Ron, as you say a mahogany top beats all and I saw plenty ripped out in the sports bar era. Lino could also be mitered, trimmed or cut to any radius with ease for bar tops to but up to the hardwood mouldings front and back.

I've heard the term American Bar elsewhere and thought maybe table service was available?! But probably cocktails was the thing and a short lived phenomenon from the 1920's until the depression kicked in.

qq said...

You still get American Bars in some of the posh hotels in London like the Savoy (which may in fact be the original????), which is indeed the posh cocktail bar.

qq said...

Isn't the idea of a Jug and Bottle that it's for off-sales of draught beer during pub hours, whereas an offy was more bottled beer and could have different hours? At least originally.

I know quite a few pubs where there's either a platform bar side or on the customer side as well. It allows you to run pythons and other plumbing laterally without digging up the actual floor, either to a ground-floor barrel room or because the bar is not directly over the cellar.