Types of Pub, 1927

In researching his book The English Public House as it is Ernest Selley travelled to various towns around Britain and concluded that there were three types of pub.

  1. The Food Tavern — a type of pub that ‘definitely sets out to provide meals… something more than biscuits and cheese, sandwiches and cut cake’. These he found mostly in large towns and cities and observed that they tended to serve food at lunchtime, to business-people. This statement seems to confirm the view that the wide availability of substantial food in pubs is a relatively recent development‘My experience, generally, has been that, outside limited areas, there is no attempt to provide meals on licensed premises.’
  2. Social Houses‘A tour round the public houses of any town will bring out the fact that certain houses possess greater social conveniences than others.’ These are the kind of pubs with pigeon clubs, cycling clubs, music, comedians, skittles, and cork clubs: ‘The chairman…says, “Gentlemen, produce your corks,” The man who cannot produce his cork has to pay for a round of drinks.’
  3. Drink Shops‘The lowest type of public house… which provides practically nothing in the way of social amenities except shelter and liquid refreshment.’ There is conversation but it is ‘about on a level with the street corner group’; there is sawdust on the floor; and hardly any seating.

How does that map with today’s pub scene? We’d say, based on our own un-scientific observations,  that the group in the middle (live music and pigeon clubs) has shrunk, or become a kind of heritage exercise; food taverns have become much more common — almost the norm; while barebones ‘drink shops’ have become what people now call ‘rough pubs’.

(And there are, of course, new types and sub-types.)

Pubwatching With Desmond Morris, 1993

When Dave Tweeted the above at us last week, even before responding, we had ordered a copy of the 1993 book in question from Amazon for £2.81, delivered.

Pubwatching with Desmond Morris. (Cover)Pubwatching with Desmond Morris, despite his name and face on the cover, was actually written by anthropologist Kate Fox, based on research commissioned by the Brewer’s Society. It packs a lot of observations into its 64 pages: there are notes on types of pubgoer, games, typical pub conversations and etiquette, among other subjects. Of greatest interest to us, however, was an attempt to categorise pubs as they were at the turn of the 1990s.

Even if no such attempt can ever be definitive, every time someone tries, it is illuminating in some way. If nothing else, such exercises provide a snapshot of a particular point in time, and a particular perspective, as with the academic paper on pubs and bars in British cities c.2001 we stumbled upon last year.

The Morris/Fox categories from 1993 were:

1. The Serious-traditional pub, where ‘greater importance is attached to the authenticity of the ales’, customers are ‘middle class, and in the 25-50 age group’ and include ‘students… social workers, teachers, university lecturers and other dedicated non-profit-making professionals’, some of them ‘members of CAMRA… who are drinking for a cause, as well as for the taste’.

Continue reading “Pubwatching With Desmond Morris, 1993”

The Seven Types of Boozer, c.2001

Neon sign: 'Bar'. (By Peter Sigrist.)
SOURCE: Peter Sigrist on Flickr, under Creative Commons.

It can be hard sometimes to recall details of the recent past. It does, after all, tend to blend rather seamlessly into the present.

That’s why we love coming across specific, detailed contemporary observations such as this academic study of nightlife in British cities in the period 2000-2002.

Its authors, Meg Aubrey, Paul Chatterton and Robert Hollands, categorised the seven types of drinking establishment in the UK c.2001 as follows:

Style Bar: One off, individual, décor obviously highly designed and stylised. By nature fairly new. Could be part of a large company which owns many pubs but a style bar would not be branded.

Café Bar: High levels of design, serves food & coffee, lots of seats/tables, range of clientele/atmospheres throughout day. Can be independent or part of a national operator.

Traditional Pub: Characterised wood tables, patterned carpets etc Can be either corporate or owner-run so includes branded traditional pubs.

Ale House: Very Traditional, scarcely changed, original features & loyal, regular clientele. Can be either brewery owned or independent. Often in need of redecoration. Often situated in run down areas.

Theme Pub/Bar: Main feature is that it follows an obvious style throughout, often with memorabilia, chalk boards, bar dress etc. Themed outlets include (1) multi-sited, national High Street Brands such as Sport, Nationalities (Australian, New Zealand, Irish) or student theme pubs or (2) single site concept bars.

Disco Bar: Vertical drinking, loud music, few seats, very busy Fri/Sat. Often closed during day and do not open till evening.

Alternative Pub: Defined by décor, but often due to music policy, clientele, attitude.

That chimes with our memories of our early twenties when we spent a lot of time  in one particular ‘alternative pub’, drawn by the music and atmosphere rather than the beer.

But would a 2014 version of that list today also include ‘Craft Beer Bar’ as a distinct category? An early example of the phenomenon, Leeds’ North Bar, founded in 1997, actually gets a mention in a quote from a clubgoer (link to PDF, p20):

There is a real Milos crowd like there is a real North Bar crowd. They are quite similar to the North Bar people in fact some of them used to be North Bar people and then they grown out and they moved to Milos because there is like DJ sort of funk. And friends of the DJ will come and it is the bar people are all friends with each other and it is a big scene.

By way of context, the authors say: ‘One of the distinctive elements of Leeds’ nightlife is that many of the bars have loyal followings, often based upon musical and style policy.’

Perhaps these days, ‘craft beer’ is part of ‘style policy’. Or is it a ‘theme’?