Thursday, 17 June 2010

Vaulting into the lounge

Many years ago, the vast majority of pubs had a separate public bar (round here generally called a vault) and lounge, reflecting distinctively different groups of customers who used them. But, over the years, this division has steadily been swept away, reflecting a supposedly more democratic and egalitarian society, and a desire to use the space in pubs more flexibly. Nowadays, it’s relatively rare to find a pub that does have a completely separate vault, although some do have a plainer section at one end of their drinking space.

But that doesn’t mean that the customers have become homogenous too, and sometimes you end up with the former vault customers in effect colonising the lounge. Now, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of boisterous behaviour and robust banter, and indeed in the past that “vault trade” was the heart of many pubs. But if that’s what you encounter when walking in through the front door in search of a quiet pint or a bite to eat, you may well think you’ve wandered into the wrong place.

In fact, there’s at least one pub I can think of that still has a perfectly serviceable separate vault, but where all the vault-type customers congregate on the lounge side, leaving the vault empty.

Setting aside separate sections of a pub for different groups of clientele is something that very often has a practical justification of keeping everyone happy and is nothing to do with antiquated class divisions. Many pubs, for example, would benefit from having a separation between areas where children were permitted, and areas that were adults-only. And, at present, more customers than you might think would appreciate a footie-free zone (as my local has).

Incidentally, are there any pubs around where beer prices are still lower in the public bar than in the lounge?


  1. Why were they called the vault?
    In my opinion the more rooms and or cubby holes a pub has the more inviting it is. Around where I grew up the public bar tended to be the domain of men. Often a group of wives would be deposited in the lounge with the men going off to the bar. Couples would also frequent the lounge. How times have changed.

  2. I know of a number of pubs that still have separate lounge areas, though what was the vault is now often the main bar. Sam Smiths pubs are particularly noticeable for that - see the Three Goats Heads in Oxford or the Earl of Lonsdale on Portobello Rd in London.

    As for different prices, I'm sure there's a couple of places in the city that used to have differing prices between the lounge and the public bar - but I haven't visited them in a few years. They also used to have a different whiskey selection in the lounge/bar.

  3. The fox and goose near Dudley in the West Midlands still has higher prices in the lounge and function room, although I haven't been there for a few years.

  4. A few years ago I walked into a pub in Kendal and the land lady asked if I was local. I was sent to the other room when she found out I was a tourist. Not the best welcome.


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