Because it's all about a certain custom in British pubs. Hanging a towel over the beer engines says: "No more beer". In my days, that was because last orders had been served. During WW II, the beer could just have run out.
“WHITE CHRISTMAS” FOR BEER ENGINES?
WHILE NORTHAMPTON “D1VI” CLUBS PAY OUT £100,000
THERE is every possibility that the white towel will hang forlornly over the handles of many heer engines in and around Northampton before the Christmas holiday has run its brief course.
No extra allocations have been made to the public-houses and other places where refreshment and good cheer in liquid form are available and proprietors, managers and bartenders view with little relish the prospect of facing a thirsty populace with nothing more on tap or under cork than at a normal period.
They expect the bars to be crowded from Christmas Eve on, but a “Mercury and Herald” reporter gathered from a number of them that they have little hope being able to meet the anticipated demand.
Generally, boot and shoe factories are closing down from Wednesday evening until Monday morning. Men who have been moved into munition factories in various parts of the country are also expected to home on a short two-days’ holiday.
”They will have plenty of money to spend.” said one publican, "but I doubt if they will have the opportunity of spending much of it with us.” Stocks of beer are about as large as at an ordinary weekend, but supplies of Guinness and stout are short. Bottled stuff is in very small supply and everybody is looking for it, apparently with the object of having a drop in the cupboard should all other sources run dry.
Bartenders are having an unenviable time explaining to irate customers that they are not keeping the bottles under the counters for favourites and special pals. Wines and spirits are almost as scarce as bananas.
Various schemes' are being tried by publicans in an endeavour to have least something for regular customers. At one well-known public-house women patrons have been rationed to one bottle of Guinness a night for the past few weeks. At another flow of beer for some time past has been restricted.
WISE WILL GO EARLY
Clubs are no better off than "pubs,” and the golden rule for all who would seek the sanctuary and hospitality of those places popular resort would appear to be to go early and make a little a long way.
People in the trade view the shortage in very different lights. While some are perturbed at the loss of Christmas trade, others are frankly, delighted at the prospect of having a light day or two. A feature of pre-war life which has virtually disappeared are the numerous competitions which people indulged and pitted their skill and luck against each other for seasonal prizes.
There are still seme competitions for an odd turkey, whilst a few bottles of whisky are raising the wind for deserving objects, but the majority of people who organised events of this kind in the past have found that rationing makes it impossible for them to offer worth-while prizes.
Northampton Mercury - Thursday 24 December 1942, page 1.
What's the first thing that struck me? Confirmation that bottled was at the time a woman's drink. How and why did that change. You might think it a bit mean to single out a women's drink for rationining. But it's because it wa bottled rather than being a female-preferred drink.
I'm guessing that publicans really did keep hidden supplies of stuff like spirits for regulars.