|Two discriminating women drinkers at the GBBF
Photocredit: Tom Leishman
The SDA had a profound effect on pubgoing, enabling changes that still resonate today. It would seem strange to a younger generation of drinkers that there were pubs that excluded female customers (but not always female staff), either from the entire building or from particular rooms.
A famous example was the Hole In The Wall, Hackins Hey, Liverpool. This pub claims to be the oldest in the city, dating from the eighteenth century, and it has an old-fashioned charm as well as good beer, but until the SDA, women were barred entirely. Even after the Act became law, they were slow to provide toilets for women who had to go to the neighbouring Saddle Inn. A CAMRA local beer guide at the time wrily described the pub as “coping manfully with the Sex Discrimination Act”.
More locally, the very fine Guest House on Union Street in Southport had one room restricted to men. The door to the room on the right was permanently shut with a sign saying, “Gentlemen only”. Out of curiosity, I entered the pub shortly after the SDA became law: the sign had been removed and the door wedged open. I don't recall seeing it shut since.
Although this is all now history, it's a fact that even today some women feel wary of going into a pub on their own, and are much less likely than men to do so. Any who do might take something, such as a book to read, to suggest that they have a specific reason for being there – and are not seeking male attention. In a way, it is a pity that such worries still exist 45 years after the SDA became law.
However, things are changing for the better with groups of women more inclined to patronise pubs than formerly and with many pubs becoming more family friendly. While this is not entirely popular with some traditionally-minded beer drinkers, CAMRA as an organisation welcomes the increasing inclusiveness of our pubs and bars.
I am conscious of the incongruity that I'm a male writing this.
► This is one of a series of articles that I write for the CAMRA column in our local papers, the Southport Visiter and Ormskirk Advertiser. Older articles on local pubs are here.