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One of the most frequently asked questions about #EveryPubInBristol is how we define a pub. This is hard to answer beyond ‘We know one when we see one’.

But we thought we might try to be a bit more scientific and come up with a scoring system.
As a starting point, we took CAMRA’s guidelines, most recently updated in May 2019:
The licensed premises must:
[1] be open to and welcome the general public without requiring membership or residency and without charging for admission (a);
[2] serve at least one draught beer or cider (b);
[3] allow drinking without requiring food to be consumed, and have at least one indoor area not laid out for meals; and
[4] allow customers to buy drinks at a bar © without relying on table service.’
[a] except when entertainment is provided on limited occasions, when an entry charge may apply.
[b] includes cask or keg beer or cider. References to ‘cider’ should be read as ‘cider and perry’.
[c] includes service from a hatch or specific service point.
This offers a helpful baseline, effectively weeding out clubs, dedicated music venues and restaurants.
However, under this definition, something which we would instinctively call a cafe would comfortably fit and, indeed, venues of this type do make it into the Good Beer Guide from time to time.
Bristol is particularly blessed with cafes that are open until well into the evening, serving draught beer, including real ale, so it’s not outrageous but, still… They’re not pubs.
We sourced some more ideas on Twitter (months ago – this really has taken a long time to digest) and then constructed a spreadsheet for scoring.
It includes things like carpet, whether there are tablecloths, the history of the building, whether it’s part of a chain, and so on, amounting to 24 criteria in total.
Next, we tested it by feeding in a few pubs we know are definitely pubs, a handful of establishments that definitely aren’t, and everything in between.
What we’ve ended up with is a scoring system that offers four outcomes:

  • Not a pub | 19 or less
  • Possibly a pub | 20 to 39
  • Probably a pub | 40 to 59
  • Definitely a pub | 60 or more

A maximum score of 100 is possible.
For #EveryPubInBristol, we’re ticking definitelys and probablys, but won’t go out of our way for possiblys.
It’s important to note that the scores are not about the quality of a pub, or intended as criticisms of places that aren’t pubs – it’s fine to be a bar. It’s just an attempt to evaluate the essence of pubbiness.
In particular, we’re trying to work out what typical pubs have that typical cafes don’t, such as fruit machines, a mixture of standing and sitting, and so on.
And we’re doing this for our own benefit, primarily – do we need to trek to the far end of the opposite corner to visit this place, or can we get away without the hour-long bus ride?
We should also point out that we have only designed this with the English pub in mind, and our weightings may not be right for pubs elsewhere in the UK, let alone pub-type establishments in the rest of the world.
We, like CAMRA, have a fairly low bar for entry: somewhere serving draught beer in pints from a counter is already across the ‘possibly a pub’ mark (unless it has traditional cafe opening hours, for example), and cask ale and the right name or decor will tip it into the ‘probably’ zone.
When we shared a version of this post with our Patreon subscribers last week, there was a gentle challenge on carpet. That’s a good example of a marginal indicator of pubbiness to which we’ve given low weighting in the scoring system. On its own, carpet probably won’t rule out most pubs, or tip non-pubs over the line.
However, we’re sure there are further tweaks that can be made.
So, with that in mind, have a play with this Google Docs spreadsheet and let us know how well it works with pubs in your town.
You’ll have to make a copy (Sign in to Google > File > Make a copy) but then you’ll be free to play around as much as you like, adding or removing criteria, or changing the weighting to your liking.
Try to break the scoring system – find a place you know is a pub that our scoring system doesn’t rank, or a place that definitely isn’t a pub (a curry house with cask ale, a cafe) that does.
If you don’t have a Google account or don’t want to use a spreadsheet, here’s a text version so you can tot it up however you prefer.
Is it part of a chain?
Some or complete chain branding; name of chain prominently displayed on signage. Pubcos and breweries are not chains for this purpose.
If yes, ‑5 points
On some or all tables
If yes, ‑5 points
Cakes on the bar
If yes, ‑5 points
Primary purpose of establishment is something else
E.g. hotel, bowling alley, music club
If yes, ‑5 points
Closed at least one day a week
If yes, ‑5 points
Bar and bar service
Or service hatch
If yes, +10 points
Mixture of standing and seating
If yes, +10 points
Traditional pub name
Assessor’s judgement
If yes, +5 points
In a historical pub building
If yes, +5 points
Has one or more guv’nors
I.e. someone who owns it or manages it closely – you know their names
If yes, +10 points
Has locals/regulars
Regular customers who know each other only via the pub
If yes, +10 points
Partial or throughout
If yes, +2 points
Mixed furniture
I.e. chairs don’t all match
If yes, +4 points
If yes, +4 points
If yes, +5 points
At least one of Dartboard, pool table or fruit machine
If yes, +5 points
Pre-packaged snacks
Crisps, nuts, pork scratchings, Scampi Fries, or similar; not cakes
If yes, +5 points
Draught beer
If yes, +5 points
Cask ale
If yes, +10 points
Serves pints
If yes, +10 points
Eating compulsory
If yes, immediate disqualification
Need to be a member to enter
If yes, immediate disqualification
No alcoholic drinks
If yes, immediate disqualification
Running the numbers: is it a pub? originally posted at Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog