Pub and restaurant opening hours

The Licensing Act, 2003, (for England and Wales) allows premises selling alcohol to be open for twenty-three hours a day, but in reality this is either impractical or undesirable. A major factor is the availability of staff. Another is the effect on neighbouring businesses and homes, not just of continual activity but also of customers’ potential drunken behaviour.

The Act was intended to bring the UK in line with Europe and to discourage squeezing lots of drinks into a short time (‘binge drinking’). However, most pubs, pub-restaurants and restaurants stick to the standard times, which are 11am – 11pm Monday to Saturday and 12pm – 10.30pm on Sundays. Restaurants may further reduce this, according to their own circumstances. Pubs rarely stay open after midnight. Traditionally, a bell is rung ten minutes before closing time, or a bar-person will shout “Last orders!”. A second bell, or “Time please!”, marks the end of the evening. ‘Lock-ins’, whereby sales continue after the pub doors are locked, are illegal.

When applying for a Licence, the pub or restaurant owner must provide a schedule of opening hours and the police and neighbours may raise objections at that stage. Licences can be revoked for illegal, dangerous or annoying activity.

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