ALE Spring 2003 No. 309

Licensing - a Brief History

and Opening hours in other European Countries.

(This is taken from CAMRA's November Press Release)


The Intoxicating Liquor (Licensing) Bill of 1872 first introduced restrictions on opening hours and was universally reviled. 800,000 people petioned against the Bill. The Bill was eventually passed and became known as the Aberdare Act. The Act sought to put an end to gin-palace-type premises and was designed to make life difficult for landlords.

1914 - 1918

Licensing changes introduced. In August 1914 powers to close public houses and to restrict pub opening hours were given to military and naval authorities. This power was extended to civil authorities shortly afterwards.

In October 1914 evening closing time in London became 10.00pm instead of 12.30am.

In 1915 opening hours were reduced from 16-17 hours (19.5 hours in London) to 5.5 hours and evening closing was 9 - 9.30pm.

In 1916 the Government via the Central Control Board (Liquor Traffic) took over the four breweries in Carlisle as well as 235 pubs in the Carlisle, Gretna and Annan area. The next year pubs in the Enfield Lock area of London and Invergordon in Scotland were taken over. In all these areas there were worries that the effectiveness of the munitions factories were being endangered by drunkenness amongst the workers.

The State Management System, as it was called, banned Sunday drinking, the consumption of spirits on a Saturday and the use of spirit chasers. Food, soft drinks and facilities for women were introduced to pubs.

There was even a call for the Nationalisation of the brewing industry and pubs.


The 1921 Licensing Act transferred the assets of the Control Board to The Home Office and The Scottish Office. The State Management system carried on until it was abolished by Harold Wilson in the 1970s. The 1921 Act also set opening hours at 8-9 hours a day, with afternoon closing. And 5 hours on a Sunday.

The 1964 Licensing Act

This Act replaced the 1921 Licensing Act and other subsequent amendments.

Since 1964 there have been at least a dozen separate Acts and Deregulation Orders making certain amendments and adjustments to licensing law. These include all day opening on weekdays (1988); all day opening on Sundays (1995) and recent New Years Eve Orders.

The 1964 Act runs to 155 pages; 204 sections and 15 schedules. It includes regulations for seamen's canteens, licences in the Carlisle district and Sunday closing in Wales and Monmouth!

The current Licensing Bill promises to "sweep away more red tape than any other Bill in history" and 33 separate statutes will disappear.

Opening hours in other European Countries


Hours very flexible. Bars open (and close) when they like and licensing magistrates rarely impose restrictions on opening hours


Max hours 9.00am - 1.30am (an extension of 2 hours can be granted).


10.00am - midnight. Friday and Saturday till 3.00am.


Fixed hours for particular pubs, but there are always pubs that stay open from early to very late.

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