Saturday 6 January 2024

Off licences in the 1970s

In contrast to on-licences, there was considerable growth in the number of off-licences during the 1970s. Between 1970 and 1979, after a long period of relatively stable numbers, off-licences increased by not far short of 30%. A significant enlargement.

You can see exactly how this went in the table below.

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. 

England and Wales Number of off licences 1970 - 1979
Date  Off Licences 
1970 27,910
1971 28,166
1972 28,808
1973 29,710
1974 30,556
1975 31,644
1976 32,595
1977 33,758
1978 35,009
1979 36,182
change 29.64%
Brewers' Almanack 1971, page 83.
2011 Statistical Handbook of the BBPA, page 74


Anonymous said...

I remember Kwik Save having their own separate little in-store shop, Liqour Save. Don't recall it being gated but it had its own opening hours different from the mother ship.

Kevin said...

Do we get a Let's Brew Saturday recipe this week?

Anonymous said...

I know of some pubs in Ireland that have an attached off licence.


Anonymous said...

I'm curious what else they might have sold. Places like that in the US would sell almost anything with a profit margin if they could move enough for a profit -- lottery tickets, cigarettes, beef jerky, you name it.

Bribie G said...

"Gated" liquor stores are very common in Australia where the two major supermarket chains operate much of the liquor business. They also own a lot of the pubs depending on which state you live in.

For example in New South Wales they have "BWS... beer wines and spirits" that are attached to many Woolworths (nothing to do with the old UK Woolies) and you have to go through a separate entrance. Same with the other half of the supermarket duopoly Coles who have "Liquorland" outlets.

Stand alone BWS and Liquorland are also scattered around the suburbs.
The major liquor barns are Dan Murphy (Woolworths) and First Choice Liquor (Coles) and also in big stand alone stores.

There are also a lot of independent liquor chains such as my local LiquorSTAX.

The breweries don't get much of a look in at all which is frustrating for them as the liquor chains do a lot of parallel importing - for example Stella Artois imported from the UK at a far better price than the local Stella that's BUL by one of the big breweries here.

As well as bypassing Australian breweries with big imports of Hollandia, Oettinger etc and we have them to thank for good supplies of Euro an UK beers such as Shepherd Neame and Hook Norton that would never happen if breweries owned our version of "offies" .

Ron Pattinson said...


I forgot it was Saturday. I've published a recipe on Sunday this week instead.

bigLurch Habercom said...

Yep, the local pub i have mentioned before had an "Off Sales" single story building attached to it but with some strange opening hours as my dad informed me. He thinks at one time it didnt have an integral door and the staff member had to go outside and unlock the door to get in. Something to do with it being a different license he thinks.