Impact of Licencing Laws
January 1940 to December 2008
Much of the way that gay people socialised, when and where, was influenced by the licencing laws at the time.
Back in the 1950s and earlier, bars were licenced only till 10:00p.m. so many gay men moved on to one of a number of cafes, coffee bars or milk bars. These included the Pantheon, the Mexicana, and most famously, The Kardomah Cafe, which had a strong gay clientele, over an extended period through the 1950s and 1960s.
In other bars, coffees were served ‘ with something in them’ after hours and there were lock ins for those in the know.
Some establishments didn’t obtain alcohol licences or had them only for beer, so found imaginative ways round the problem such as selling different coloured ‘raffle tickets’ which could be cashed in for ‘prizes’ of drink.
As the licencing laws relaxed, and people could stay in the pubs a little later, and clubs started to open up, there was less interest in the coffee bars, and they were rarely mentioned by the 1970s.
The relatively early closing also meant that there were often private house parties on a Saturday night, and some of the prominent men at the time such as Laurie Williams, were regular hosts during the 50s, 60s and 70s.
By the nineties, with clubs obtaining much later licences, people were able to party into the early hours. Even after alcohol had ceased to be served, people continued to party on through the night, often fuelled by drugs and poppers which had taken a more prominent place on the scene.
In the 2000s with the relaxation of the licencing laws came the opportunity for all day drinking, and gay people can be found in bars in the gay village throughout the day in smaller numbers and right into the night.
The latest law to significantly impact on the use of bars is of course the indoor smoking ban effective from 1st July 2007. This has seen the emergence of a number of outdoor beer gardens, covered out door areas, and patio heaters. In a number of cases bars have taken the need for such developments as a cue for more of an overhaul or refurbishment and several premises in the gay village have seen significant improvements during 2007.