Monday 6 November 2023

Off licences in the 1970s

It wasn’t just pubs which were tied by brewers. Many off licences were.

This was a combination of pubs – where a on-premises licence usually also granted an off-premises one, too – and stand-alone shops.

The simple explanation for this, as with pretty much anything to do with brewing history, is licensing legislation.

Temperance-tinged licensing authorities weren’t only in a tizzy about the number of pubs. They didn’t want an expansion of any licences. Including those for off sales.

Brewers reacted by taking control of as many off-sale locations as they could. The lack of licences given to shops is why some pubs had a dedicated out-sales entrance.

The pub closest to our ancestral home on Wilfred Avenue, the Turk’s Head, was demolished and rebuilt in the 1950s. The layout of the new pub was an archetype of the time. Two rooms, either side of the entrance, lounge to the left, public bar to the right.

But, tacked on behind the public bar bogs was a single-storey extension. Which was an off-licence. Not just a door and a counter, but a dedicated, stand-alone shop. The pub is now a Vets. The off-licence closed many years before the pub.

Some off-licences had cask beer. I can remember a couple in Leeds with hand-pulled Tetley’s Mild and Bitter. I wonder if they were tied?

It might seem odd now, but most supermarkets weren’t licensed in the 1970s. And, in those that were, the alcohol was in a separate, gated section only accessible by adults.


Anonymous said...

How was cask beer sold in off stores? Did people bring simple containers and just carry it home for drinking right away? Or did people buy suomething like a growler that could contain the gas and let it be stored for a couple of days?

Ron Pattinson said...


people would bring a pop bottle. More off-licences sold cider from a 5-gallon plastic barrel. Same idea. You brought your own bottle and they filled it. I assume people drank the beer pretty much immediately.

Anonymous said...

A number of pubs in Ireland still have off licences. One of the closest to me is the Bakers corner.

Bribie G said...

Bring your own bottle... I remember the local offie in Cardiff did the classic British Wines, ruby and apricot wines, from wooden casks on stillages. Worked out a lot cheaper than the regular VP and QC British wines (brewed from imported grape or apricot juice concentrates).

bigLurch Habercom said...

Yup, one of the pubs in the village where I live still had the bar to the left and lounge to the right with an off sales counter at the end to fairly recently. The design fell victim to a large pubco deciding they knew better etc etc (food, children etc etc). Anyway, looking at these 1960s estate pubs of Home Brewery and Shipstones they all followed the same design. I do also remember the Hemlock Stone at Wollaton having a counter in the entrance hall for outdoor sales. Depending on the duty manager at the time being a child of the 70s being served a coke and a pack of crisps was a sign of being important.

Anonymous said...

Coke in a wasp-waisted glass bottle with a slightly ground surface from multiple trips to the coke factory to be refilled, and a paper straw no doubt. Crisps? Smokey bacon, cheese and onion, salt and vinegar, even possibly Salt'n'Shake?

bigLurch Habercom said...

Yep, remember it well. But as a 7 year old in 1979 I never gave it that much thought, :)