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Public house

A public house, usually known as a pub, is a drinking establishment found mainly in Britain, Ireland, Australia and other countries.

Table of contents
1 Overview
2 Pub games and sports
3 Pub food
4 Pub names
5 Pub signs
6 Pub chains
8 Notable British public houses
9 Pubs in British Popular Culture
10 Pub Music
11 Theme pubs
12 Irish public houses
13 Compare with
14 See also
15 External links


Public houses are culturally, socially and traditionally different from other places found elsewhere in the world such as cafés, bars, bierkellers and brewpubs. Colloquialisms for the public house include boozer, the local and rub-a-dub-dub (see Cockney Rhyming Slang).

An amusingly named pub (the Old New Inn) at Bourton-on-the-Water, in the Cotswold Hills of south west England.

The Church House Inn in Stoke Gabriel
(near Brixham), Devon, England.

Pubs are social places for the sale and consumption of mainly alcoholic beverages, and most public houses offer a wide range of beers, wines, spirits and alcopops. Beer served in a pub can range from from pressurised "keg" beer, to "cask" beer brewed in the time-honoured fashion in wooden barrels or casks. The beer lends most pubs a pleasant, memorable aroma. Often the windows of the pub are of smoked or frosted glass so that the clientele are obscured from the street.

The owner or manager (licensee) of a public house is known as the publican, but is often referred to as "guv" (short for guv'nor, or govenor). Each pub generally has a crowd of regulars, people who drink there on a regular basis. The pub people visit most often is called their local. In many cases, this will be the pub nearest to their home, but some people choose their local for other reasons: proximity to work, a traditional venue for their friends, the availability of real ale, or maybe just a pool table.

Pub games and sports

A number of traditional games were often played in pubs including darts, shove ha'penny, billiards, and in some areas, Nine Mens Morris and skittles. In recent years the game of pool has made itself felt in British pub culture. Increasingly, video games are provided. Many pubs also hold special events, from tournaments of the aforementioned games to karaoke nights to pub quizzes. However many now play pop music, or show football on big screen televisions.

See also

Pub food

Pubs in Britain were primarily drinking establishments and little emphasis was placed on the serving of food. The usual fare consisted of specialised English snack food such as pork scratchings along with crisps and peanuts. If a pub served meals they were usually fairly basic dishes such as a ploughman's lunch. Food has now become much more important as part of a pub's trade and today most pubs serve lunches and dinners (colloquially this is known as pub grub) in addition to the normal snacks consumed at the bar. Many pubs serve excellent meals which rival the best restaurants and going for a 'pub lunch' can be a real treat. Certain pubs with a focus on high-quality food have come to be known as gastropubs.

Pub names

Pubs often have traditional names. Here is a list of categories:

Pub signs

British pubs often have highly decorated hanging signs over their doors. These signs bear the name of the pub, both in words and in pictorial representation. If the pub's name refers to real objects or animals, then the picture will usually be a straightforward one; if the pub is named after a person of nobility, then the sign will often bear that person's coat of arms. In the past, the pictures were more useful than the words for identifying the pub, as many of the patrons were illiterate, and names may have been chosen based on what the picture would look like. Some pub signs are in the form of a pictorial pun or rebus.

Pub chains

In recent years a number of pub chains have sprung up which use semi-traditional sounding names (The Rat and Parrot, The Slug and Lettuce, The ... and Firkin) for all of the pubs in the chain. Newly acquired pubs are renamed and many people resent the loss of traditional names. These pubs are often owned by brewing companies and their beer selection is mainly limited to beers from that particular company. However; by law, pubs owned by breweries must allow their landlords the choice of offering at least one alternative beer (known as a guest beer) from another brewery and that beer must be a cask conditioned or bottle-conditioned real-ale.


The society which has a particular interest in the traditional British beers and the preservation of the integrity of public houses is CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale. CAMRA were instrumental in lobbying for the guest beer law.

In 1998 there were 68,000 pubs in the United Kingdom (53,200 in England and Wales, 5,200 in Scotland and 1,600 in Northern Ireland). Perhaps more significant is the overall trend reflected in two other statistics: while the number of licences is up from around 75,000 in the mid-1970s to over 85,000 in 2002, the number of barrels of beer sold at pubs (and bars) has dropped from over 36 million to less than 24 million during the same period. These statistics reflect the trend in the UK away from drinking at the local pub. (Source: BBPA Statistical Handbook).

Notable British public houses

Pubs in British Popular Culture

All the major soap operas on British television feature a pub as their focal point, with their 'pub' becoming a household name. The Rovers Return is the world famous pub on Coronation Street, the top British 'soap' broadcast on ITV. The Queen Vic (short for the Queen Victoria) is the pub on EastEnders, the major 'soap' on BBC1, while the Woolpack is the pub and central meeting point on Emmerdale. The sets of each of the three major soap operas have been visited by major royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II. The centrepiece of each visit was a trip into the Rovers, the Vic or the Woolpack to be offered a drink.

Ex alcoholic US president George W. Bush famously fulfilled his ambition of visiting a 'genuine English pub' during his November 2003 State Visit to the UK when he shared lunch and a pint of non-alcoholic lager with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the Dun Cow pub in Sedgefield, County Durham. This was rather an expensive pub outing however, with security costs for the event estimated to have been in excess of £1 million [1]. Bush is also reported to have left the pub without paying, an act which is considered a serious pub culture social faux pas.

Pub Music

While many pubs now play piped pop music, the Pub has historically been a popular venue for live song. See:

The pub has also been celebrated in popular British culture, including songs such as "Hurry Up Harry" by the 1970s punk rock act Sham 69, the chorus of which was the chant "We're going down the pub" repeated several times. Another such song is "Two Pints Of Lager and a Packet of Crisps Please!" by UK punk band Splodgenessabounds.

Theme pubs

Pubs that aim to cater for a niche audience, such as sports fans or star trek fans or people of certain nationalities are known as theme pubs. Examples of theme pubs include sports bars, rock pubs, biker pubs and Irish pubs (see below).

Irish public houses

Superficially there is little difference between an Irish pub and its English counterpart. However, closer scrutiny will reveal some differences. There seems to be more live music in an Irish pub, some of which are known in the Irish language as Ceilí Houses, and a customer is more likely to entertain the assembly with a song. The atmosphere in such places is called craic, (pronounced crack) and is the Irish language word for fun. In Ireland pubs usually bear the name of the current or a previous owner. e.g. Murphy's or O'Connor's Bar. Famous bars in Dublin include O'Donoghue's, an Irish music bar in Merrion Street frequently by American tourists, Doheny and Nesbits, where politicians, journalists and writers drink together, the Horse Shoe Bar in the Shelbourne Hotel, where journalists like Eamon Dunphy are regular drinkers, and The George, Dublin's largest gay bar. Individual pubs are also associated with famous Irish writers and poets such as Patrick Kavanagh, Brendan Behan and James Joyce.

'Irish Bars' have been opened throughout the world, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, from New York to Frankfurt, Johannesburg to Beijing. The main drinks consumed in Irish pubs include ales like Guinness, Smithwicks and Kilkenny, lagers such as Budweiser, Heineken, Carlsberg and Harp and other spirits like whiskey and Baileys. Alcopops are also becoming popular with the youth market, many of whom no longer drink ales such as Guinness. Non-alcoholic drinks are also available.

Compare with

See also

External links