Monday 17 July 2023

Opening hours in WW II

At the outbreak of war, the opening hours that were in effect had been set by the 1921 Licensing Act. This had embedded in law many of the emergency measures adopted during WW I. One of the most notably being afternoon closing.

Unlike WW I, there were no sweeping restrictions on pub hours. There was no real need, as they were already pretty short.

In London, pubs could open 9 hours a day, starting no earlier than 11:00 AM and finishing no later than 11:00 PM, with a break of at least 2 hours in the afternoon. Outside the capital opening hours were an hour shorter, finishing no later than 10 PM. Though licensing justices could, at their discretion, add an extra half hour and allow pubs to close at 10:30.

The war, however, often made it difficult for pubs to open for those restricted hours. Air raids, for example, which were a common occurrence in the first half of the war.

There was no official policy on pubs closing when air-raid sirens sounded. It was left to the discretion of the individual publican whether or not they closed up and shooed all their customers off to air-raid shelters.

A pub might stay open during an air raid, but only partially, closing more exposed rooms and concentrating in those affording more shelter.

Drinkers modified their behaviour to cope with the possibility of being rained on by bombs while out having a quiet half or two. City-centre pubs were avoided and ones in residential areas, close to home, preferred.

Those adventurous drinkers who did venture into town tended to head home early for fear of getting caught up in a raid.

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.”
This is an excerpt from my recently-released BlitzKrieg!, the definitive book on brewing during WW II.

Get your copy now!

The second volume contains the recipes. But not just that. There are also overviews of some of the breweries covered, showing their beers at the start and the end of the conflict.

Buy one now and be the envy of your friends!


1 comment:

Matt said...

The BFI collection Roll Out the Barrel has a couple of short films depicting pub life in England during WWII.

As well as people not venturing into city centres and going home earlier because of air raids, beer shortages must also have led to a restriction in pub opening hours.