pexels rachel claire 5490965

Bars Vs Pubs: What’s the Difference?

16 Nov 2021

To the average person, a bar and pub may seem almost identical, with barely anything to set apart. While both will happily serve thirsty customers with a much-needed drink at the end of a long day, there are several key differences that set these two types of establishments apart. 

Understanding what sets bars and pubs apart can be integral to running the business and part of the duties of a good manager. Each has their own unique set of customers and needs that shouldn’t be ignored. 


Neither pubs nor bars are modern inventions. Both have long histories stretching back in the hazy mists of time. Even then, the differences between the two types of businesses were well established. 

The word pub originally comes from ‘Public House’[1]. A public house was a house that was open to the public and often served as a local hub for villages and towns. Members of the public could meet and socialize while enjoying locally brewed alcohol and a freshly cooked meal. 

Many also served as inns where travelers could spend a night or two after a long day on the road. While bars are mostly strictly contained inside, pubs will often feature a beer garden and other outside areas

Bars are named after the metal or wooden barrier that traditionally stretched across the serving area[2]. Unlike pubs, bars are generally dedicated to serving alcohol, often spirits, with very few food options and have age limits on who could enter the building. 

While pubs often occupied their own building, it’s never been unusual to find bars incorporated into other businesses such as hotels and restaurants. 


Perhaps the biggest contrast between the two is the atmosphere. Both serve different purposes and that is often represented in the clientele and the ambiance of the place. 

Thanks to their history as places to socialize with friends and family, British pubs commonly have a much more laid-back atmosphere with low music levels and more seating options. Events at pubs include the classic pub quiz and special themed nights where the kitchen serves food from around the world. 

In terms of culture, bars are a very interesting case. A dive bar will have a very different atmosphere and clientele to a wine bar, for example. That being said, there are a few common threads across the spectrum. Bars are generally very lively places with younger customers.

Events at bars are mostly focused around socializing. These events can include Ladies Night where women get cheaper drinks and Singles Night where single people can meet in an informal setting. Live music is much more prevalent in bars than in pubs and some more upmarket places will hire an inhouse band. 

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. Some pubs will be exciting places that may not be suitable for families and older people. On the other hand, there are bars that enjoy relaxed atmospheres and a wide range of clientele. It’s always worth checking reviews of a place before you go so you can get a good understanding of what to expect. 

These two opposing cultures are also reflected in the architecture. Pubs, especially in older buildings, will have traditional features such as wooden support beams and original fireplaces. In contrast, bars will be as sleek and modern as their customers.  

As with anywhere that serves alcohol, there is an increased chance of encountering difficult customers but any good venue worth its liquor license [3] will have paid security to deal with any unpleasantness. 

Food and Drink

Attitudes towards serving food and drink are another aspect of the two businesses that are vastly different. Pubs and bars are very particular about what they serve and can contrast wildly from place to place. 

Traditional pub food is well-regarded across the United Kingdom. Classics like pie and mash, fish and chips, and Sunday roasts can be found up and down the country and are enjoyed by millions of people every year. Some places will also serve regional favorites. This culture of food comes from their history as meeting places where people would strengthen their social bonds over a good meal and a pint of local ale. 

In terms of drink, the most common things on offer are a variety of beers, ciders, and basic wines and spirits. Craft beers have recently become very popular amongst drinkers, causing some pubs to dedicate themselves entirely to the sale and promotion of these specialty drinks. 

As their customer-base tends to skew younger, bars are almost entirely focused on the sale of alcohol. The food served, if any, will generally consist of snacks and appetizers that are designed to encourage drinking. Salty nuts, olives, and other finger foods are commonly on offer though some bars will provide more substantial offerings like tapas. Bartenders will be trained in proper bar etiquette and sometimes have fancy drink mixing skills that wow the crowd. 


Location has also played an important historical role in setting apart pubs and bars. Where a venue is placed can be the deciding factor in whether it will be one or the other. 

Bars are more connected to the nightlife scene than pubs and so are mostly located in urban areas. This location allows them good transport links and gives them access to workers in the city that are looking to blow off steam on Friday nights and weekends. The relative safety of a central location allows customers to indulge more in alcohol and means they can more easily get home after a heavy night. 

In contrast, the more relaxed atmosphere of a pub means that they do best in a more suburban setting. Since they were traditionally located in the center of a village, residential areas have quite naturally sprung up around them over the years. This affords the pub more space for outdoor areas and parking lots which in turn attracts more car users like families and older people. 


While food and drink are good ways to get customers in the door initially, retaining customers and keeping them coming back is equally important to any business. Pubs and bars are no different and have a variety of different ways to do this. 

As mentioned above, bars are generally more social places where people go to interact with strangers and meet new people. To this end, the available activities are designed to get people together. DJs and dance floors are common sights and bars with stages will almost always have live music, karaoke, and open-mic nights. 

The entertainment available in pubs reflects the more laid back attitude of the place. Often, and especially in big older pubs, there will be a section of the building dedicated to games such as pool, skittles, and darts. Some pubs even offer league play for these games where teams can formally compete for money and prizes. 

The Best Tech For Pubs and Bars 

No matter the differences between bars and pubs, both can benefit from the best payment technology on the market. The Epos Now Bar point of sale system can integrate seamlessly with thousands of apps and help businesses increase their turnover by streamlining their processes. 

Contact Epos Now today for more information.