Have the great British public forgotten how to queue in pubs?

This attempt at politeness is actually causing chaos at bars across the country, writes Ryan Coogan. It’s time we all went back to a system that actually works

Saturday 18 May 2024 12:28 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


There is a rot at the heart of our culture. Our social fabric is unravelling, as hordes of people abandon social norms to embrace chaos. Members of the British public have chosen to trample on decades – nay, centuries – of tradition.

That’s right – people have started queueing in pubs.

To be clear, I’m talking about lining up in single file perpendicular to the bar instead of standing along its length, creating a wall of patrons that snakes through the establishment as a semi-permanent obstruction. The phenomenon has perhaps best been documented by the Twitter account @QueuesPub, which has been campaigning for people to return to the common sense approach of crowding around the bar and trying to catch the server’s eye.

I have no idea when this started, but I first observed it in 2015. At that point I was mostly drinking in student bars, so I assumed it was a case of younger people not really understanding pub etiquette. As time went by, though, I started to see it happen in more traditional pubs, with the queues being made up of older and older people, until eventually it seemed to be the norm. It’s got so bad that pubs have started putting up signs asking people to return to the old system.

I know this country loves a queue – it’s one of those quaint British stereotypes that’s been held over from the days when we could still delude ourselves into thinking that we’re a semi-respectable nation – but there’s a time and a place. At the bank? Great time for a queue. Taking the family to Alton Towers? Brother that’s going to be 90 per cent queueing. Queen dies? You can bet we’re going to form the biggest queue you’ve ever seen in your life.

But queueing at the pub? It just doesn’t make any sense. I mean it’s basic maths: the bar exists on an X axis – why are you queueing along the Y axis? It’s one of those things that starts off as an attempt to be polite that just ends up massively inconveniencing everybody, like refusing to pick a place to eat, or deciding what to watch on Netflix. Except in those examples, you usually aren’t making dinner or movie plans with tens of belligerent, unpredictable drunks.

The correct procedure for getting a drink is as follows: you get as close as you can to the bar without pushing in front of anybody. You wait for an opening, and then slip in, card or cash in hand. You then stare at the bartender, eyes as wide as possible, psychically willing them towards you with every fibre of your being until they know you’re ready to order. And if they serve somebody else instead of you? Baby, that’s just how things go sometimes in this crazy world. Better luck next time. Are you sure you can’t make your eyes even wider?

It’s currently summer. That’s prime drinking season. I expect to spend more of my time in pubs over the next few weeks than I spend with my family. While I’m there, I don’t want to spend half my time standing in a line like I’m waiting for the new iPhone. Pubs are already charging me £8.75 for a pint of Carlsberg – the very least you can do is not make this experience more of an ordeal than it already is. Please, if not for me, then for my poor, neglected family.

If you’re reading this, then you have the power to restore the social order. Next time you’re in the pub and there’s a queue, confidently stroll past it and cosy up to the bar like a normal person. You might get some looks, but the barman will thank you for it, and you might even start a trend.

It’s up to you. This madness cannot continue any longer. Say no to chaos – say no to queues in pubs.

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