Saturday 7 July 2012

Not in here you don’t!

It was recently reported that a group of soldiers wearing their uniform to attend a military funeral had been refused admission to Brown’s Bar in Coventry. Not surprisingly, there was a wave of indignation in the press, and it prompted this post by Pete Green at suggesting the time has come to abandon any discriminatory restrictions in pubs.

Which is what prompted the poll whose results are displayed above. All of those are things that, at some time, people have been refused admission to, or ejected from, pubs. Most of them still are still applied somewhere even today. Some of them you will probably feel can be justified, others not. A worthy addition would have been “wearing football colours”, suggested by Phil in the comments. Maybe refusing admission to customers with dogs, too.

At least two people thought every one could be justified. “Continued shouting or singing after being asked to calm down” topped the poll, while “Arriving in a minibus” was last. Perhaps surprisingly, 14 out of 103 respondents thought it was acceptable to admit customers wearing clothing apparently soiled by urine or faeces, but, hey, in some run-down areas that might exclude half the clientele.

There is a fundamental tension here, though. Traditionally, it has been regarded as the right of the licensee to admit or exclude whoever he wants. A pub may be “public” but is also a “house” – you are not just buying produce, as in a shop, but buying time in the company of others. A licensee tries to create a particular atmosphere which, while not entirely homogenous, means that all the customers feel reasonably at home with each other. It only takes a small disruptive, intrusive group to spoil that.

However, in recent times there has been a move to outlaw discrimination against people on the grounds of their race, religion or sexual orientation and, more recently, to ensure a level playing field in the provision of goods and services. To a large extent this is a welcome move, but there are some people who perceive discrimination on such grounds when in actual fact they have just been acting like an arse, and cry foul.

In my view, licensees are still fully entitled to impose restrictions on dress and behaviour, so long as they don’t contravene the law, but in today’s climate of political correctness they need to tread much more carefully than they once had to. There is always the point too as to whether you would actually want to visit a pub anyway that didn’t welcome you as a customer.

As a parting shot, while I am no cheerleader for Irish republicanism, might it not be a good idea on at least two levels for a pub with a strong republican ethos to bar people wearing British military uniforms?


  1. Knight of Malta7 July 2012 at 15:28

    Jeez, if Muslims were involved in the pub trade there would be all kinds of nonsense going on here. Be thankful for small mercies.

  2. Thank goodness, I can still wear socks with my sandals if I go for a drink on a chilly evening!

  3. '14 out of 103 respondents thought it was acceptable to admit customers wearing clothing apparently soiled by urine or faeces'

    They'll be the ones in prams and buggies...

  4. Odd parting shot that. Very odd.

  5. Martin, Cambridge8 July 2012 at 14:18

    Dogs in pubs, now there's a worthwhile topic. I'm not happy I have to grin and bear it when an animal takes up space at the bar or licks my shoes.

  6. Martin, Cambridge. You sound like a right laugh.

    By the way, which pubs in Cambridge to you frequent? I've got a dog and live in the area, so I'll pop along and let my dog hump your leg.

  7. Martin, Cambridge9 July 2012 at 13:21


    Sounds like the best offer I've had in years. Would see you in the Unicorn tonight if G..... K... hadn't just closed it.

    Sorry, just don't like doggie gob and hairs all over me when I go out. Should be separate rooms for them.

  8. Many of these things fall into the category of rational or irrational prejudice.

    Having lived and worked near an army camp many moons ago I can see why the landlord of a smart pub might not want a boozer full of scrapping squaddies. However the landlord obviously never got the memo about soldiers being the new saints after nurses.

    It seems very insensitive to refuse to serve some lads burying a fallen comrade.

    I've never liked dress codes, over 21 rules or any such snobbish rubbish but have observed it on occasion to improve a business. Likewise I've seen it result in business falling off a cliff.

    I'm glad to live in a society where racial and homophobic prejudice are beyond the pail, but I would cross the road late at night to avoid a group of hoodie wearing black youths.

    If you can rationalise a prejudice and explain it, you stand a chance of getting away with it.

    The best way of keeping out the riff raff, though, is price. Price at a level the great unwashed won't pay.

  9. Surely the answer to the dogs issue is to have separate "dogging" and "non-dogging" sections.

    Or something similar...

    "Dogs in public bar only" works for me.

  10. As dog-owning pub-goers, I and my partner long ago sussed out that the best and friendliest pubs were the ones that didn't have a problem allowing dogs in. So much so that if we're in a place we don't know, one of us nips into our chosen hostelry first and asks if it's OK to bring our dog into the bar - even if we haven't got the dog with us.

    Conditions like "as long as he's on a lead" are fine; a flat "no" - for whatever made-up reason the bartender might give, results in us finding somewhere else to go. On the few occasions when an anti-dog establishment has been the only one available, we've discovered to our cost that such places aren't worth spending much time (or money!) in.

    It's an unfailingly reliable tip even for people who don't own - or like - dogs.

  11. Martin, Cambridge9 July 2012 at 22:32

    I'll agree that pubs that welcome all comers are generally the best - good example being the Vine in West Bromwich.

    I'll also accept most dogs in pubs are no trouble at all. It does annoy me that the same tolerance shown to dogs is rarely shown to children though.

  12. Saga of Nails.9 July 2012 at 22:35

    Public Houses are not public houses. I run a small pub and I am perfectly entitled to refuse admission or service to anybody that I choose, and legally I do not have to give any reason. Saying that, there were only a few of the options that I ticked, being, not wearing a shirt, soiled clothing, foul language and over enthusiastic singing. Additionally, I do not admit large groups such as stag/hen parties or unruly pub crawls. I chose these as the ones that I would not admit, but as it's a private business, a landlord has a right to pick any of those.
    Regarding the military uniform one, I suspect this happens in barrack towns, where pubs tends to be either squaddie pubs or civvie ones, and you can probably imagine why this happens.

  13. Well actually no, you're not entitled to refuse admission or service to "anybody that you choose". Private business or not, you can't refuse entry to someone because of their gender, race, religion, sexuality etc, and simply refusing entry and then denying those were the reasons will not stand up at an anti-discrimination tribunal. Try it and see how long you keep your licence for.

  14. "It does annoy me that the same tolerance shown to dogs is rarely shown to children though".

    I like drinking pubs which aren't really suitable for children. The reason being is that there are very few public places where adults can go to get away from it all without having irritating children running around.

    Parents have numerous options for entertaining their kids, so please just leave pubs to us adults.

  15. You sound like a right laugh anonymous !

    Wonder what Orwell would have thought about that approach to encouraging children to see pub-going as a normal activity. Separate rooms the answer but too late now.

  16. As an Aussie on a holiday, I was shocked and infuriated when my little brother was booted (as part of a family group) for being OF LEGAL DRINKING AGE but under 21 at a pub in London which was, that UNFORGIVABLE BREACH aside, the perfect boozer. Even had a bar cat. WTF is with that?

  17. py0, I don't have to give any reason for not serving somebody, and I am under no obligation to serve anybody that I don't want to. It's quite possible for bad landlords to abuse this right, but there is not much that can be done about it. We have the right to refuse service to anybody that e don't want in our pub. After all, the pub is my front room.
    Anonymous the 2nd; I also happen to prefer to get drunk in pubs that do not have children running around. Pubs are places where adults go to get drunk, swear, fart, and talk bollocks. Why would anybody want to take their children to such a place ?

  18. You may like to think so Saga, but the precedent of law is not on your side. A well known pub chain are currently being sued for discrimination after they refused to allow members of the traveller community into their pub under the auspices of supposedly wearing the wrong type of shoes. It looks like being an out of court settlement. Can you afford to take the risk? Have you got a spare £100,000 put aside for when you get taken to court for arbitrarily refusing someone entry?

  19. Stereotyping is a lazy shorthand for judging people. Landlords can stereotype people based on appearance, but there will always be people you choose to dress a certain way but are in fact nice well behaved types who will be justified in feeling aggrieved if discriminated against. If they have a recourse in law you can be sure that law will be used.

    Even if there is no law against the discrimination being practiced, any public facing business needs to ensure its practices pass a basic smell test. That is, if on the front page of a national newspaper can you defend your actions?

    Discriminate all you want, but the public are also free to tell you to stick your pub and go drink elsewhere.

  20. The licensee has the right to refuse entry to anyone he or she chooses and doesn't have to give a reason. That is fact.

    A person refused admission has the right to take the licensee to court if he or she believes that the refusal was a result of unlawful discrimination. That is also a fact.

    So the reality is that Saga is correct about a licensee's right to refuse anyone without explanation, but unwisely exercising that right may have legal consequences.

  21. Yes, which is basically what I was saying - if you do want to exclude people, you have to tread carefully, especially if you are excluding whole groups or categories of people.

    Not sure if the age discrimination legislation extends to the provision of goods and services, but if so that would make under-25 bans questionable.

    I've never heard of pubs banning pensioners, although putting on a loud soundtrack of kickin chewns should do the trick. Unless they're deaf, of course.

  22. Currently age discrimination legislation doesn't extend to goods and services, but this is to change later in the year. From October it will be illegal to discriminate on age grounds in the provision of services and public functions. However, discrimination in areas such as insurance and hospitality, amongst others, will still be allowed. So an under 25s ban will remain lawful.

    It is increasingly difficult for a landlord to justify exclusions. Discrimination on grounds of disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation is prohibited.

  23. I discriminate against people who are going to foul the atmosphere of my fine pub, disrespect the other customers or staff, or are likely in my eyes to be a pain in the arse. I have no prejudices relating to race/gender/religion or class.
    Separate issue, I have worked in a pub where a large group of travellers came in, and proceeded to piss off all the other customers, sing very loudly, out of tune, swore and threatened staff, and point blank refused to drink up and leave after over thirty minutes drinking up time. I will note that i was not running that pub, but after a few incidents of this behaviour, large groups of travellers were not allowed in the pub again.


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