For the first time in years, we found ourselves this week being chased out of a pub by staff, urging us to drink up as the lights came on. And we didn’t like it.
Now, we get it:
- they’re no doubt bound by the terms of their licence
- it’s in a residential area with no doubt grumpy neighbours
- the staff want to go home
- and they’ve become hardened through dealing with resistant customers.
But, still, something about this particular situation left us feeling aggrieved and we’ve been trying to work out exactly why.
We think it’s this: at 10:58, there was no indication in the atmosphere or manner of the staff that the pub was about to enter shutdown mode.
The music was thumping, the lights were low and the crowd seemed to be growing. We assumed it was licensed until at least midnight – it was that kind of mood.
Prior to 2005, when looser licensing laws came into effect, you knew where you were – most pubs called time at 11 pm and expected you out by 11:20 and that was that.
If you ordered a pint at 10:58, that was your problem.
But pubs being open late isn’t unusual these days, especially in cities, so the signals need to be clearer. In this case, if the lights had come up at 10:45 or someone had simply said “We close in 30 minutes” – we wouldn’t have ordered those last beers we had no time to drink.
And the atmosphere for those last 20+ minutes was terrible, too – stressed staff, pissed off customers and little opportunity to chat between gulps of beers.
If the unique selling point of beer in the pub is conversation and atmosphere then what was the point of this final round? We’d have been happier drinking tins in front of the telly.
Then, irritation passing, we started thinking about what shutdown looks like when it’s done right and realised that of course The Drapers Arms does it brilliantly.
At 9:20, last orders is called, loud and clear; at 9:30, the hooter hoots; the crowd begins to clear; the bucket of bleach comes out and the discreet tidy up begins.
Usually, the pub empties fairly naturally, but on the rare occasion we’ve been there until the very close, we’ve been encouraged out of the door with good humour: “Drink up, you buggers! I want to go to the pub myself.”