Closing time bell in UK pub

Because of Covid, pubs are now closing at 10pm, resulting in a furore of dismay and much controversy about loss of liberties and the ‘killjoy’ attitude of the government.

But many of us remember when the closure of pubs at 10pm was the norm. The announcement of ‘Time, gentlemen please’ was the signal to drown the last pint and emerge into the fresh air. In University unions it was common for students (mostly male) to leave the bars at 10pm and find female students eagerly waiting for them. Many private clubs, where you could drink all day, were established.

A search of ‘pub opening hours’ in the Archive, reveal several reports of the many surveys which probed people’s attitudes to the proposed change of law in the 1980s regarding pub opening hours. For instance, surveys reported by British Public Opinion, NOP Political, Social and Economic Review and ‘Britain Speaks Out 1937-97, a Social History as seen through Gallup, show that not all the public were in favour of increased opening hours, particularly in the over 50 year groups. Gallup reports in 1984, that on balance, the public took the view that the opening hours of public houses were not long enough, although two in three felt that the hours were about right. Around six in ten of the public approved of the idea of the total number of opening hours remaining the same but the publican being allowed to open and close as he wished.

It does not take long before radical change becomes the norm. Now we are dismayed when drinking time is over at 10pm.


For fascinating insights into cultural changes and attitudes in Britain, search the Archive from the main search page.


Contributed by Phyllis Vangelder
Date posted: 9th October 2020


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