Thursday 14 September 2023

Opening times in the 1970s

In the different parts of the United Kingdom the licensing laws varied. One thing they had in common was two-hour break (at least) in the afternoon. And a closing time of no later than 23:00. Plus 15 minutes “drinking up time” after serving stopped before they kicked you out.

Oh, except for the islands which aren’t part of the UK: the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

The rules set by the 1922 Licensing Act were pretty much still in force. The Act formalised the temporary regulations brought in during WW I. They drastically reduced opening hours and enforce a closure of a minimum of two hours during the afternoon.

There wasn’t one set of opening hours. They varied according to licensing district. I would tell you the pattern behind those differences. But there isn’t really one. It was pretty random, much dependent on the whims of the local licensing authorities.

In London, the hours were 11:00 – 15:00 and 17:30 – 11:00, or 11:30 – 15:00 and 17:00 – 11:00.

In Newark, it was 10:30 – 14:30 and 18:30 – 22:30 (23:00 on Friday and Saturday.). In Nottinghamshire 22:30 was the usual evening closing time. But as neighbouring Lincolnshire had 23:00 closing, some would dash in their cars the few miles to the border to cram in an extra pint. As the police wanted to discourage such a dangerous activity, Newark was allowed an extra half hour of drinking at the weekend.

While in Leeds, opening was 11:00 – 15:00 and 17:30 – 22:30. Why they were different from Newark and is purely random. For me, opening at 17:30 in the evening was perfect: I could take a bus straight to the pub after work. Which wouldn’t have been possible with opening at 18:30.

Channel Islands
On Jersey, there was no compulsory afternoon closing and pubs could open between 9:00 and 23:00. Guernsey had slightly shorter hours: 10:30 to 23:00. Only Alderney had an afternoon break: 11:00 – 14:00 and 17:00 – 23:00.

Isle of Man
No afternoon closing here either. Other than on Sunday, when the hours were, frankly, shit: 12:00 – 13:30 and 20:00 – 22:00. Fuck me. That’s even worse than England. I won’t say UK, as in Wales and Scotland pubs were either all, or mostly, closed.

On weekdays, however, they were open 10:30 - 22:45.

Small wonder those semi-independent islands were popular with British tourists. Especially as the beer was cheaper, too. Simply due to the duty on beer being much lower.


Matt said...

Even after the 1988 Licensing Act, some smaller and rural pubs still shut in the afternoon (now of course, many don't open until late afternoon). I was in one with a mate in the early nineties and we were surprised when the landlord called time at quarter to three, even though the law no longer required him to shut. I also recall being in a pub in Stoke around then where we were similarly surprised by last orders being called early: it was Good Friday and they were operating Sunday opening hours (not sure when that changed).

Wasn't there a special provision for pubs in some provincial towns to stop open in the afternoon on market days (a bit like the early opening allowed for pubs near London's wholesale markets)?

Anonymous said...

For many years, I lived an area where three counties abuttted one another in certain places. In one village, the county boundaries of East Hampshire and West Sussex, past directly through the centre of a pub - making the salon bar in E.Hanys, while the public bar was in A.Sx.

The Flat Hat said...

In the Hampshire town I lived in the permitted hours were 10:30-2:30,(some pubs opened at 11) 6-10:30 (11 Friday/Saturday) and 12-2 & 7-10:30 on Sundays. Drinking up time was 20 minutes although it had been 10 minutes a bit earlier in the decade. A couple of pubs had market day hours, morning opening at 10am and closing later, possibly 4pm. It was a bit odd going to London and having the shorter break between 3 and 5:30.

Phil said...

Sunday closing in Wales was by county, tracking the level of religious sentiment (which in turn tended to track the level of Welsh speakers) - IIRC Carmarthenshire (where I lived as a kid) was 'dry' and Pembrokeshire 'wet'. The border between Pembs and Carms consists mainly of dark and narrow country roads with bugger all for a few miles either side, but people living near the border didn't let that stop them.

Anonymous said...

Most of Ireland is one of the islands that is not part of the UK that had strict licensing.

Robin said...

There was also the strange status of pub afternoon openings in market towns. Growing up in Leeds we could always go to Skipton or Otley on market days when the pubs seem to have been open all afternoon. There might have been some silly 15 minutes of closure, I seem to remember which was honoured in the breach more than the observance.

Thom Farrell said...

Barnard Castle had "Cow Day", or market day, where the pubs were allowed to open all day. I assume other market towns had similar provisions.

Anonymous said...

With half an hour difference in opening times, after 2230 the public bar was empty, while the salon got busy - regardless of any price differencial!

Ed said...

I briefly worked as a brewer in the Isle of Man and they copied exactly the UK beer duty. Didn't do that with all the taxes mind!

Anonymous said...

There are houses that are split by the Irish border.

Anonymous said...

Did you ever see Dominic Cummings testing his eye sight?

Anonymous said...

Good to see NI being left out again, as it really shouldn't be part of the UK.

Ron Pattinson said...


there's a reason Northern Ireland was left out: I didn't have the information. I was intending to research it later.