Come see the class inherent in the bar system
October 30, 2012 4:39 AM   Subscribe

"Now it is instructive to go into, eg, one of the big old boozers in the East End of London and imagine them not as they are, just one room, frequently, if they’ve been hipstered up, with unplastered brick walls and big, clear windows, but as they were 50, 60, 80, 100 years ago, carved into three, four or more separate spaces by mahogany and etched glass barriers, each section with its own hermetic, exclusive group of customers, who would rather walk into the wrong lavatory than the wrong bar, and served, often, by its own separate door to the streets outside." -- Martyn Cornell dives into the diverse varieties of British bar one could encounter until recently
posted by MartinWisse (18 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
For those in London who still want to see some of the old [physical] divisions in pubs, then I'd recommend the Lamb in Bloomsbury and the Prince Alfred in Maida Vale.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:57 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, thanks for this article and this site!

I lived next to the Princess Louise in Holborn, mentioned in the article:

I love what happened to the Princess Louise in High Holborn, London after it was taken over by the Yorkshire brewer Samuel Smith, around 2006. Sams restored it at some expense to just the way it would have been in the 1890s, complete with bar doors separating the open space into smaller drinking areas, and snob screens, the rows of small centrally swivelling little opaque windows along the top of the bar at head height, found in the saloon bar or snug. The snob screens were closed when patrons in the saloon did not want to be seen by hoi polloi in the public bar or taproom,

And we've had several mefi meetups at the nearby Lamb on Lamb's Conduit, which also has its snob screens.
posted by vacapinta at 4:58 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Magdala in Hampstead still retains a fully separate entrance and separate small room for hardcore boozers only. They don't even show a photo of it on the website.
posted by colie at 5:06 AM on October 30, 2012

PS most London pubs I knew that had booths had them ripped out to stop people dealing drugs in them...
posted by colie at 5:08 AM on October 30, 2012

Strange... my locals have always had multiple bars accessed from separate doors to the outside world. At least two of them have had a no-mans-land between the two which houses the toilets and an uneasy ceasefire...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 5:11 AM on October 30, 2012

This is of interest to me as well although from a Glasgow perspective and the differences that drinking culture bring to the bar architecture. Here is the layout of a bar from 1899 that currently still trades although in a slightly modified form. 1899 plan of shop. FYI Gauntress : fitting is known as a ‘gantry’,derived from ‘gantress’, or ‘gauntress’, an old Scots words to describe a wooden stand for casks, which you can find mounted both vertically and on their sides ( from Scotlands True Heritage Pubs )
posted by stuartmm at 5:22 AM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the front part of the Prince Alfred is so thoroughly sectioned off that the doors are only half height and you actually have to duck under the etched glass part of the wall... Someone told me that this was to allow men to meet mistresses without being spotted even when the doors were opened, but I don't know if this is true.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 5:26 AM on October 30, 2012

This popped up on languagehat's blog a while back, which is one of the few places on the Internet that I happily read the user comments because I find them to be informative!
posted by knile at 5:43 AM on October 30, 2012

Heh - I was barely two lines into the FPP before I was thinking of the Princess Louise. Nice to see it get a mention, as it's a beautiful pub, and being linked to a brewery it serves some unique (and very nice) drinks. Well worth popping in for a pint of their cider if you're ever wandering along High Holborn.
posted by ZsigE at 5:51 AM on October 30, 2012

My local has two sections with seperate doors and a bar running though the middle so you can see into the other side.

One side is for sports, with big screens, dart board and a pool table which is loud and has lots of swearing. The other is just for sitting and drinking which always seems to be spookily quiet.

Not sure if it is an old building or not. Would have to ask.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 5:51 AM on October 30, 2012

Private Bar Midway in status between public bar and saloon bar, intended for customers wishing to conduct private conversations, or for men accompanies by women: sometimes deputising for a Ladies’ Bar

Ladies’ Bar Self-explanatory

This isn't exactly self-explanatory. Was the Ladies' Bar for ladies only, or was it the only place ladies were allowed to drink, with or without men?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:42 AM on October 30, 2012

This isn't exactly self-explanatory. Was the Ladies' Bar for ladies only, or was it the only place ladies were allowed to drink, with or without men?

I can't speak for the UK, but in Ireland until about the 1960s, it was considered unseemly for a woman to set foot in a pub. The snug, a smaller private area closed off from the main room, with its own access to the bar through a side window, was where women could go to have a glass without causing a scandal.
posted by LN at 9:02 AM on October 30, 2012

The latter. I used to have Liberal Club membership back in the 90s, and the male only main bar survived in quite a few Cardiff clubs then. Was quite a relaxing atmosphere, actually...
posted by howfar at 9:02 AM on October 30, 2012

When I was a child, our local pub had a room for us children to have Sunday lunches while our parents were getting loaded in the main room. Since everyone we knew was there, and the village was small enough for us to find our way home on our own, it was a nice place to be after cricket.
I know, I know...
posted by mumimor at 1:34 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a distinct feature of old-time Anglo Southwestern Ontario. The only cheer in town (on a day that wasn't Sunday) was a tavern based in a hotel near the train station, with four internally linked rooms, an entrance through the lobby, and two separate outside entrances with Very Specific Signage: "LADIES AND ESCORTS" and "MEN'S ENTRANCE". I'll just presume that women were just not allowed in the "MEN'S ENTRANCE" before my time, but the signage was still pretty common even though its function was not that relevant around the time that I was legally allowed to drink in bars circa 1980 or so...

By then you could walk into a tavern in Ontario and tour four rooms:
1) Pool tables and Hockey Night in Canada on TV loud.
2) A live punk band, or sometimes a jazz or pop band.
3) A live solo acoustic singer-songwriter.
4) A cohort of grizzled WWII veterans drinking Labatts 50 draft with stoic determination. Loud conversation was not forbidden but not really encouraged. Sometimes with TV quiet or sound off, except for Hockey play-offs. Not particularly inviting, but a real living History lesson, especially if an argument about Dieppe erupted.

These "LADIES AND ESCORTS" signs are now pretty rare. Victorian-era Hotels in Southwestern Ontario are often vulnerable to mysterious acts of arson shortly before commercial re-development.
posted by ovvl at 3:30 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

This was pretty common in Australia as well until the 1960s, the saloon for 'mixed company' and a stand-up men-only bar. My grandfather used to be fetched home to dinner by my mother, she says, who had to shout through the door to get him out.

The nasty Australian variation (that was mostly but not exclusively a country thing) was a window outside the pub, typically with a grille, for bottle sales to Aboriginal people who weren't allowed inside. You hear about those existing until the 1970s, but every now and then you read about scandals where pubs won't serve Aboriginal customers.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:53 PM on October 31, 2012

Most of my locals in Australia have had a public bar and a lounge bar (occasionally 'parlour').
While prices were the same, the lounge was usually carpeted, the public bar usually tiled. The lounge would have restaurant height tables, the public bar usually had bar stools and high tables.
The public bar would have the pool table(s) and the betting tickets (PubTAB).
In some this distinction was reinforced by licensing laws that allowed underage kids in if accompanied by an adult (in the lounge) with no tiddlywinks allowed in the public bar.
And nearly all had the democratic and usually somewhat family friendly beer garden.
posted by bystander at 10:53 PM on October 31, 2012

I used to work in a pub, only about 5 years ago, that preserved different prices for public bar and lounge bar. The difference? 2p on everything. For that you got carpet.

It was an old fashioned sort of place. Good beer though.
posted by howfar at 7:49 AM on November 1, 2012

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