Friday, 25 March 2016

Lockout lottery

It’s an ironic fact of life that, the more pub hours have been liberalised, the more many pubs have chosen to open shorter and more irregular hours. Pub explorers Simon Everitt and Martin Taylor have often reported finding pubs closed when they expected them to be open, which can be intensely frustrating if they’ve made a special effort to get there. This story from Simon really takes the biscuit.

I would be the last person to insist that pubs should open when there’s little or no trade. But, if they choose to adopt limited or unusual hours, it is surely incumbent on them to ensure that any potential customers are aware of that. They should publish their hours on their website, if they have one, and ensure that the hours displayed on WhatPub? are correct.

Even if they don’t have an online presence, they should make sure their hours are clearly displayed outside. It’s no use saying “if you turn up and we’re open, we’re open, and if we’re closed, we’re closed”. Passers-by may make a mental note of your hours and come back later, and the casual customer may decide to wait if they know you will be open in another half-hour, whereas if there’s no display of hours at all they’re likely to go elsewhere. And, if you declare your hours, you really need to stick to them.

It’s basic business common sense. But, sadly, some pubs still seem to exist in a world of entitlement where they have no need to communicate basic information to potential customers. Life isn’t easy for pubs nowadays, but sadly they often do themselves no favours. Shops manage to do it, even though they tend to have much more predictable hours, so why can’t pubs?

Another point Martin has made is that, in many areas, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find any pub open on Mondays outside town centres, which rather mirrors the situation in Germany.

(The sign pictured, belonging to an M&B pub in Birmingham, is interesting, as the 3 pm Saturday closing and 2.30 pm Sunday closing suggest it’s after the 1988 liberalisation, but it still sticks very closely to the old pattern)


  1. Agree with all of that. Interesting that in a world of social media so much information still wrong. Interestingly, on the train to the pub in Berkshire last month Google Maps told me pub would be closed when I got there (opened at 5 rather than 12), shame that WhatPub/website/Google can't link up yet.

    Problem though is dramatic increase in pubs not opening lunchtimes, though based on custom it's hard to blame them.

  2. I have almost given up on doing midweek crawls because so many pubs are now closed at dinnertime,
    i do check whatpub for opening time when doing Saturday crawls and still come a cropper,in two recent crawls i found pubs in Stanningly and Huddersfield that had all day opening on whatpub but locals told me each did not open until 5pm even on a Saturday.
    I was well fed after walking to these pubs that i will probably never see again never mind having a drink in.
    I do think whatpub get it right in the country areas that i have had crawls in so it may be the local Camra members who are not keeping track of said pubs opening times.

  3. Excellent Mudgie, the blog that needed writing!

    Just been reading my 1982 GBG (I'm sad like that) and even that has huge disclaimers about not blaming CAMRA if a pub doesn't open at specified times, so maybe a problem that has always been there.

    A work friend from Donny recently turned up at their Marketplace Deli on a Saturday night only to be told the whole place was closed for a private party. On a Saturday night! Perhaps that's one for another blog but it just goes to show you can't trust 'em.

  4. My recollection is that, before the introduction of afternoon opening in 1988, most pubs stuck fairly strictly to the official permitted hours. I remember a Bass Charrington manager in the early 80s telling me that it was company policy to have its managed pubs open "all permitted hours".

    The main exceptions were:

    (a) many pubs didn't open as early in the mornings as permitted. Depending on the area that could be as early as 10 am. But virtually all were open by 11.30.
    (b) it was fairly commonplace not to open until 7 pm on Saturday evenings, even in town and city centres.

    If a pub didn't open for one session a week, let alone a whole day, it was something worthy of note.

    For several years after 1988 it was quite rare for pubs to open throughout the day - I remember struggling to find anywhere open in central Manchester in about 1990. But I think the competition from Wetherspoons put paid to that.

  5. This is B.S.

    99% of pubs are open when you expect them. A small few are badly run. Who does this bother? The type of odd ball that has the hobby of travelling about ticking off obscure pubs. The sum total of sod all if you exclude a hand full of beer bloggers.

    1. Most people only go to a handful of familiar pubs. But that doesn't mean the experiences of others who deliberately seek out different pubs don't matter.

      You yourself have said in the past that one of the reasons pubs have struggled is that they often fall short of the standards of customer service you would expect in other sectors. This is just one example of that.

      And there are several beardy favourites in Stockport that open odd or limited hours, including the Magnet, Olde Vic and Spinning Top. No idea of whether they display their correct hours outside but, if they don't, they certainly should.

      I've also in the past year attempted to visit a pub in High Peak branch which was closed at a time when WhatPub? clearly indicated it should be open.


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