Last Updated on June 2, 2023 by Lydia Martin
Pubs, with their warm ambiance and rich history, beckon you for hearty pints and jovial conversations. Bars, on the other hand, exude vibrant energy, offering crafted cocktails and pulsating beats.
While both are establishments licensed to serve alcoholic drinks, what’s the difference between pubs and bars?
Join us on this enlightening exploration of the unique flavors and atmospheres that set bars and pubs apart.
Determining The Differences Between Pubs & Bars
While alcohol and food are served in a bar and pub, the location, ambiance, entertainment, clientele, and operating hours vary.
A bar is where people can gather and drink alcoholic beverages like beer. Its primary purpose is to offer the best possible selection of alcohol, and opens from the afternoon until midnight.
There are many kinds of bars like:
- Wine bar
- Saloon bar
- Gay bars
- Karaoke bars
A pub is the same as public houses initially built during the medieval era. These places serve drinks and provide food, as a restaurant does.
Their focus is on the food quality rather than the quantity of drinks. It opens earlier than bars and closes at night.
History & Origin
A pub is a short form for “Public House”  (a.k.a ale house). British have been drinking ale in British pubs since the bronze era. Before, most pubs (or public houses) served traditional English ale.
“Nothing anyone says in a bar is true.”– Mark Ruffalo, American Actor
Bars started in the US. These drinking establishments serve alcoholic beverages, like hard liquor and brewed spirits.
Bar derived its name from the high counter where alcoholic drinks are served.
Pubs tend to operate as a chain or franchises. Most upscale places have private ownership, benefitting from economies of scale by focusing on lower-cost drinks and food.
Bars tend to be operated by individuals. Bar owners brew their own beer to control costs and stock a wide selection of alcohol.
This helps a bar maintain a good financial balance while the bar caters to customers’ needs.
Bars are privately owned, allowing bar owners to appear more upscale than a pub. Also, bar owners control the menu and decorations.
Most bars are located in cities, as they cater to younger customers, and this demographic tends to move to areas with more entertainment and work opportunities.
Also, cities have enough residents to support any establishment (like a bar) that serves alcoholic drinks.
In comparison, pubs can be found in various places, such as suburban and rural areas.
Adding a bar to a restaurant can boost foot traffic and make the establishment more viable in places with a lower population.
Food & Alcohol Served
In terms of food, you can rely on a pub. Their menu varies but mostly serves Shepherd’s pie, burgers, pizza, fried chicken, fish, and BBQ.
Aside from the food served, a pub also has drinks served – mostly cocktails like Espresso Martini, Cosmo, Manhattan, and Old-Fashioned.
Unlike a pub, a bar serves little or no food, as the focus is on serving alcohol. In most cases, the food served in a bar is simple, mostly snacks, since it can mask the flavors of cocktails and alcoholic beverages.
The ambiance of a pub is more relaxing and intimate. It has dark decor, private dining areas, and dimmer lights. A pub follows a certain restaurant etiquette, meaning no loud music is playing in the facility.
Unlike pubs, a bar is typically more upbeat and exciting than a public house. It has loud music, live bands, etc.
Although a bar is better lit, they may still turn the lights down on dance floors. Also, a bar has more open floor plans, allowing people to see more clearly across the room.
Every pub is usually a full-service structure catering to older adults and families. They also try to attract working individuals who are on their lunch break.
Conversely, bars are more likely to cater to younger people looking for a good time. That’s why you’ll see more younger people bar hopping, especially in dance bars.
While typical pubs tend to be expensive, bars focus more on rich customers. They also provide expensive drinks, such as rare wine bottles.
Compared to bars, a pub offers less entertainment. Lots of pubs have televisions showing sports games, as patrons prefer a more comfortable environment with meals and drinks on the side.
A public bar provides more entertainment, especially those catering to younger individuals. They often have a dance floor; some may even have singing areas.
Sports bars are known for having games and competitions, while biker bars offer quiz games or similar activities.
So, the basic difference between bars and pubs is that the former has more social entertainment, while the latter focuses more on private entertainment.
Pubs and bars have similar age limits when accepting guests, 18 to 21 years old. But you can find more younger guests in bars than in pubs. The age limit is strictly followed.
The exact hours of a pub may vary depending on the location, but most will typically open at 10:30 or 11:00 am, with some staying open until 1:00 am to accommodate the early lunch crowd.
Many pubs serve fewer refreshments after around 8:00 pm, so they focus more on alcohol after the evening rush.
Compared to a pub, bars usually open later in the day. Many bars stay open until around 4:00 or 5:00 pm.
The closing times of establishments are set by Last Call laws, which are typically enforced at 2:00 am.
Pubs offer cheaper drinks than bars, as their focus is more on food. But bars also offer lower-cost drinks during happy hour (pubs have happy hour, too!)
“Pubs nurture community, while bars ignite the night with energy.”– Liquor Laboratory
Snacks are cheaper in bars since these places don’t serve food that much.
Do They Have Something In Common?
Yes, pubs and bars are allowed to serve alcohol, which varies from wine, beers, whiskeys, etc.
While a pub serves more food menu than a bar, both of these places serve good food.
Why do Americans call pubs bars?
Americans call pubs bars because both establishments sell alcohol (just like in a bar).
What’s the American version of a pub?
The American version of a pub is a tavern . Taverns sell food and drink options and can be a standalone bars or restaurant.
Understanding bars vs pubs shouldn’t be complicated. It depends on whether you care more about the food or the drinks.
Pubs are typically a place to eat and drink, while bars are more concerned with the quality of their liquor and alcohol.
You should go to a pub if you’re into meals than drinks. But if you’re into places that serve alcohol more, opt for a bar.