How do you properly leave a British pub?

When it comes to British culture, few things are as iconic as the traditional pub. These cozy establishments are more than just places to grab a pint; they are hubs of social interaction, community bonding, and relaxation. However, leaving a British pub isn’t as simple as settling the bill and heading for the door. There are unwritten rules and customs that one should be aware of to ensure a respectful and enjoyable exit. In this article, we’ll explore the art of properly leaving a British pub, covering everything from last orders to saying goodbye to fellow patrons.

1. Observing Last Orders

One of the most crucial aspects of leaving a British pub is understanding the concept of “last orders.” Last orders are typically announced by the bar staff around 15 to 30 minutes before the official closing time of the pub. This announcement signals that it’s your final opportunity to order drinks. It’s a time-honored tradition to respect this call and place your last order before it’s too late.

Failing to heed the last orders call can be perceived as inconsiderate, as it may pressure the pub staff to work late or delay their own post-shift activities. To be a respectful patron, make sure you’ve got your final drink in hand before the last orders deadline.

2. Settle Your Bill Promptly

As closing time approaches, be sure to settle your bill promptly. Paying your tab ahead of closing time is a fundamental act of pub etiquette. It allows the staff to conclude their duties without delay and ensures that you are not rushed out when the pub officially closes.

Many British pubs accept both cash and card payments, so you have options for how to settle your bill. However, keep in mind that some smaller, more traditional establishments may only accept cash, so it’s a good idea to check in advance or ask your server about the payment methods available.

3. Respect the “Last Call” Tradition

Another tradition associated with last orders is the “last call.” This is when the bar staff will announce the final opportunity to get a drink before closing. Even if you’ve already ordered your last drink, it’s a good idea to stand by the bar when the last call is made. It’s a chance to toast to a good night and enjoy the camaraderie with fellow patrons.

4. Say Your Goodbyes

Part of the charm of British pubs is the sense of community and camaraderie that they foster. It’s not uncommon for strangers to strike up conversations and make new friends over a pint. As closing time approaches, it’s customary to say your goodbyes to the people you’ve been chatting with throughout the evening.

Take a moment to express your gratitude for the enjoyable company and conversation. This small act of politeness is appreciated and helps maintain the friendly atmosphere of the pub.

5. Mind the Closing Time

When the clock strikes closing time, it’s essential to heed this signal and make your way towards the exit. Unlike in some other countries, where patrons might linger for hours after closing time, British pubs typically expect customers to leave promptly.

Closing time is not a suggestion but a legal requirement, and the staff need to ensure that the premises are vacated within the prescribed timeframe. In many cases, the pub staff may start cleaning and preparing for the next day’s service immediately after closing, so it’s vital to give them the space to do their work.

6. Handle Your Coats and Belongings

While you prepare to leave, ensure that you have all your belongings, including your coat or jacket. Many pubs have designated areas or coat hooks for patrons to store their outerwear, and it’s a good idea to retrieve your items and put them on before heading to the exit. This not only helps streamline the departure process but also prevents any unnecessary congestion at the exit.

7. Exit Respectfully

As you make your way to the exit, it’s essential to do so quietly and respectfully. Keep your conversations low and avoid any disruptive behavior. Remember that there may be nearby residents who are trying to sleep, so respect the neighborhood’s peace and tranquility.

8. Thank the Staff

Before leaving, it’s customary to express your gratitude to the pub staff. A simple “thank you” or “goodnight” is a courteous way to show your appreciation for their service. Bartenders and servers work hard to ensure that patrons have an enjoyable time, so acknowledging their efforts is a sign of good manners.

9. Don’t Linger Outside

Once you’ve left the pub, it’s advisable not to linger immediately outside the entrance, as this can be disruptive to the neighborhood. If you wish to continue your conversations or enjoy the company of fellow patrons, consider moving to a nearby public space or another venue that is still open.

10. Plan Your Journey Home

Leaving a British pub responsibly also includes planning your journey home. If you’ve been drinking, it’s essential to have a designated driver, use public transportation, or arrange for a taxi or rideshare service. Drunk driving is illegal and dangerous, so ensure you have a safe way to get home.


Properly leaving a British pub is more than just a matter of paying your tab and heading out the door. It involves understanding and respecting the traditions and customs associated with last orders, saying goodbye to fellow patrons, and showing appreciation to the staff. By adhering to these guidelines, you can ensure that your exit is respectful and that the pub remains a welcoming and enjoyable place for all its visitors. So, the next time you find yourself in a cozy British pub, remember these tips to leave with style and grace, just like a true local.