"Up to now we have spoken as if the pub shuts up sharp at 10 p.m., the official closing time. This rule is not strictly adhered to. While in London pubs "Time" is often called ten minutes before the closing hour, and the landlord tries to get the pub actually shut at the official closing time, in Worktown the theory is, there should be no more orders taken after 10 p.m. This is demonstrated by the notice in some pubs:
NOTICE. Will you kindly help us by ordering your BOTILED BEERS, etc., for taking out before "TIME" is called, as we must refuse all orders after PERMITTED HOURS. THANK YOU!
In the town centre pubs this is kept to usually, but people go on drinking five or ten minutes after the hour. And in Worktown the pub clocks are not put forward ten minutes as they frequently are in other towns. In the smaller local pubs it is normal for drinks to be served up to ten minutes after the hour, time being called then, and people sit about after the glasses have been cleared, sometimes up to half past ten. Drinkers tell us that in many small pubs the regulars are able to knock on the back door and get served as late as eleven. This is not easy to verify; and indeed, the presence of a stranger in the pub at closing time may be a factor in making the landlord brisker than usual about turning people out. Some pubs, however, make a habit of quite openly serving drink until fifteen minutes after the hour.
A report, which shows how it is possible to get drinks served after the pub has shut, if you know how to set about it;
Observer went with Councillor ______ and an ex-Councillor, to the _______ at 10.20 p.m. The ex-Councillor knocked with a key on the glass door—a special knock. We went in and stopped there until 11 p.m.
That this is not necessarily confined to small pubs is shown by the following remark overheard in a big pub;
Time is called at 10.10 p.m. Woman says "It's ridiculous really, Saturday night you can go on until eleven". The waiter agrees.
The biggest and most open infringements of the legal hours that we have observed took place during the Trinity Sunday Roman Catholic processions. Here are excerpts from reports on this: At 2.45 P.m. we go into pub, ask for drinks. Publican laughs, and says "Do you know what time we close on Sunday?" We say no. He says "2 o'clock, and adds "do we bloody 'ell, I'm going to make sun while the hay shines. And I'll tell you another thing. I'm not closing down for a while yet. It's the first time it's been two o'clock closing and the scholars walking at 2.30. It's a bloody shame!" (Used to be Sunday closing at 2.30. He assumes that everyone should have plenty to drink before walking in the procession.) A man comes in and says "I'll be out and have my lunch and be back again." . . . There are lemonade tables in the less crowded bye-streets. Ice-cream cars and carts in every side street. The G. is all shut up, several St. John's Ambulance men in uniform standing at side door. Nevertheless there's a steady and noticeable stream towards the pub. Many are going into or towards men's and women's lavatories, but most are crushing towards the passage into the pub.
Man 1. "Make way there."
Man 2. "Why?"
Man 1. "It's bloody full up, that's why!"
Man 3. "You can't stir in there!"
Man 4. "It was open to bloody near opening time last year!"
Most of the pushers are R.C.'s from the procession, or bandsmen. Some miss their places in the procession while others run after their bands. There are lots of police about.
Large scale open infringement of the law like this must be deliberately ignored by the police."
"The Pub and the People" by Mass Observation, 1943 (reprinted 1987), pages 194 - 197.
Calling "time" ten minutes before closing time in London? That's not what it was like in the East End in the 1970's and 1980's. Some pubs openly flouted the law, staying open well past midnight. Not, as you'd expect, pubs hidden away in the back streets, but ones on main roads. The local police must have been well aware what was going on, but chose to ignore it. I'll leave you to speculate what their motives might have been.
My favourite pub in the world used to be the Jolly Angler in Manchester. A lovely unspoilt Hydes pub, where time seemed to have stood still. If it hadn't, the landlord was doing his best to make it stand still. Or at least run differently from its normal course. My love for the place only increased when the landlord said to us: "Come back at half four and knock on the door. I'll open up for you." Very naughty. But it made those pints of Best Mild taste all the sweeter.
After hours drinking. It must still go on. Though with relaxed opening times, there can't often be much point.
* Every advantage has its disdvantage.