Since publishing the map, I have been made aware of the following mistakes:
- The George wetherspoons in Wanstead has been erroneously labelled as a £4.75 bud light. Rather, that’s the price of bud light in The George wetherspoons in Heathrow Airport. Bud light is the cheapest pint; it’s £1.99
- I have erroneously labelled the closest pub to Chiswick overground station rather than Chiswick Park in South West London. Whoops!
- The New Fairlop Oak is mislabelled as the New Fairlop Arms, and it’s still called a pint of Hozel (which is what I heard over the phone) rather than Kozel, which was confirmed by my app-based investigation subsequent.
- A few of the pubs listed as “no answer”, such as the Kilkenny Tavern, The Cauliflower, and the Lord Denham, did not answer because they have closed down.
As far as I’m aware, there are no further mistakes.
- The Twelve Pins is not closer to Finsbury Park than the Blackstock, although I agree it feels like the closer pub. Both are 282 feet away from the underground entrance; so I alphabetised. I also did this in ten other instances where the pubs were identical distances from train station entrances.
- Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is a Sam Smith’s pub and indeed sells £2.40 Alpine Lager. The Cheshire Cheese, just under half a mile away, is not a Sam Smith’s pub, and is depicted on this map.
If you’ve navigated here to argue with me, great. If you look down at the methodology section it contains my reasoning for what is and is not a “pub”, and what I mean by “closest” which I imagine are the two main things readers will find contentious.
Additionally, I’m certain there’s the occasional mistake. If you’re a pub, and you feel as though the data representing you is false, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’m happy to make an amend.
CHAPTER 1 – THE CHEAPEST PINT
Read my introduction to how I started this odyssey – to find the cheapest pint on the tube.
CHAPTER 2 – THE CHEAPEST LINE
Curious about what the cheapest line on the tube is by PINT? Keep reading… this is the chapter where we go into a little more detail line by line, including – the cheapest line, the line with the best taste in beer, and the most popular pint on the tube.
CHAPTER 3 – THE FURTHEST PUB
For this project, I had to do a lot of measuring the distance from stations. The third and final chapter in this trilogy explains how to reduce the distance between your exiting the underground station and entering the pub to 0.
I sat and looked up the closest pub to the tube for every tube stop in London using Google Maps. Then I called that pub, and asked them what their cheapest pint was, what their most popular pint was, and how much they cost. The “popular” pint judgement was just that – a reflection of the bar staff opinion, where access to reliable data was not possible.
(A) What do I mean by “pub”?
There’s a lot of borderline cases.
Although a pub has historically been defined by the presence of available rooms, this does not match our experience of modern usage. Rather, there are key function, theme, and decor elements of a pub which I’ll list shortly. During this process I found the descriptors available on Google Maps to not be sufficiently reliable to use.
In defining a drinking establishment as a pub, where possible, I hope to respect its self-identity. However, I maintain the view that some identities are relational and others, exclusive. “tavern” and “inn” are both treated as subsets of pub in this article. A “hotel” can therefore also be a pub, because while hotels derive from a different tradition to inns and taverns, the word hotel now enjoys semantic hegemony which means that many inns and taverns (pubs) list themselves as hotels online. However, while a hotel may be a pub, it may not have one. It can have a bar.
A “free house” is always a pub – the term refers to historic pub licensing – and “free house” printed on the front of a building takes precedence over other descriptors such as “bar”. A pub can have a “restaurant” or a “grill”, but is not one. The prominence of the bar within ambiguous food/drink establishments can be used to gauge whether this is a pub with a grill, or a grill with a bar. However, “gastropubs” are always pubs.
A bar is not a pub. A building which describes itself as both a bar and a pub at different moments is generally judged a pub – but what’s written on the side of the establishment holds more weight than how it’s described online. Therefore, Springfield Bar & Grill in Bounds Green is a pub, because it has the word “Tavern” written on one side of it; whereas the Railway Bar & Grill near Buckhurst Hill is not a pub, despite some pub-like elements. Daly’s in Harrow & Wealdstone is a pub – they appear to have listed themselves variously as a bar and a pub; the front of the building does not say “bar” (it merely says Daly’s); plus, Daly’s participates in some key “pub” criteria (see below). The Ashbourne near Hanger Lane is not a pub, despite its pubby name – because it appears to describe itself as a bar and restaurant from the front, and is available on Just Eat.
The company which owns a pub or bar can influence its classification. For example, The Corner Bar in Shepherd’s Bush is a pub – because it’s owned by Wetherspoons, a pub chain. The Fire Hydrant near Monument is a pub because it’s owned by Fuller’s. The Slug & Lettuce pubs in the O2 and Canary Wharf are not pubs, despite being owned by the Stonegate Pub company, because both websites describe the Slug & Lettuce chain as bars. Beefeater and Harvester both monstrously describe their properties as “restaurants” on their websites. However, I had already collected the data when this came to light, and pubs such as The Mandeville Arms Harvester near Northolt are clearly intended to participate in pub naming convention and have other pub elements, like a pub sign. They have therefore been classed as pubs; because of the lower level of exclusivity between “restaurant” and “pub” terms – a place can do drink and food, whereas a “bar” and “pub” are clearly competitive terms for the same part of the property. One Harvester – in the O2 – has been relegated from the pub category, because its location in the O2 means it participates in fewer publike simulacra. Greene Kings, Sam Smiths, and Wetherspoons are all pubs.
Beyond identity, a pub has no essence, no hard kernel – rather, it’s an aggregation of pub-like elements, which together cohere into a pub. None of the features below on their own make something a pub; and missing one of these elements certainly does not preclude something from “pub” status.
Borderline establishments, including those listed above, all participate in some parts of this list but not others. Which means that interpretation of what qualifies as a pub is, sadly, a matter of judgement. I have listed the notes and exceptions in full – but if a pub is not listed there which you believe is a pub, I am very likely to have snubbed it on distance rather than pub-ness, which was the more common way I had to exercise judgement.
A pub’s best-selling drink should be beer or cider
If your best-selling drink is vodka, you might be a club. If your best-selling drink is gin, you might be a gin parlour or palace. If your best-selling drink is wine, you might be a wine bar or restaurant.
A pub should have a pubby name
If it starts with a “the” (e.g. The Elgin, Maida Vale); if it has a number in it, (e.g. The Three Wishes, Canons Park); if it has an “and” in the middle, (e.g. The Victoria & Albert, Marylebone) or a monarch in the title (e.g. The William IV, Chigwell), if it’s named after a red or white animal (E.g. The White Lion, Chalfont & Lattimer) – congratulations, you could well be a pub.
A pub might be earthy
This might include being Irish (in a historic sense, when Irish was synonymous with poor in the UK) – e.g. Daly’s Bar in Harrow & Wealdstone was one borderline case which was permitted pub status. Where not earthy, a good pub goes “craft”. A “craft” pub should have a middle class guy by the bar who bloody loves to talk about ales.
A pub should have a prominent bar
If the bar is in the centre of the room, that’s a very strong indication that this is a pub. If a bar has a curve in it, that’s also a strong indication that we’re in a pub – many bars feature bars that simply go straight.
A pub might use a lot of wood
It also might not. But if you’re surrounded by hardwood, you might be in a pub.
A pub might have a pub sign
This tradition dates back to the good old days where it was more common to be able to drink than read. The signs were designed to show you could get yourself some beer.
You should be able to “hear yourself think” in a pub
Compared to a bar, the emphasis is less on the particular combination of drinks or assets like lightning, music, and more on a bunch of people sitting down and chatting. To chat, you need to think, so if you “can’t hear yourself think” that’s a good indication you’re in a bar or club. Similarly, if the drinks are being illuminated below by purple lighting, you may be in a bar.
A pub should endure
The older a drinking establishment is, the more likely it is to be a pub. Anything that dates from Tudor times in England and sells alcohol we can more or less describe as a pub. Bars don’t start appearing in England until after sex got invented in the 60s.
Pub staff should either be nice or surly
They can’t be, e.g. “a twat” – you’re in a bar. Or “snooty” – you’re in a restaurant. Pub staff should either be chatty and amicable or surly and masculine. Unfortunately, surly is a gendered term – the female variant is “no nonsense”.
A pub might have a quiz
If there’s a quiz, you’re either in a pub, or a school, and I’m unlikely to have accidentally categorised a school as a pub.
A pub might have games available
Darts. Snooker. Guess Who. Scrabble. Monopoly. If you can do axe throwing, it’s one of those axe throwing places, not a pub.
If a pub has an outdoor area, it’s called a beer garden
Cafes have “outdoor seating areas” out the front of their venue; a pub only has a beer garden.
(B) What do I mean by “closest”?
In many instances, there were two pubs of roughly equal distance from a tube station. But at short range, Google measures by feet, and I have the exact measurements for every pub from the underground in terms of walking distance; not as the crow flies.*
The canonical point in the ground which counts as the “underground” is what Google Maps’ finding for the point, “Station Name Underground Station” which was observed throughout.
This sometimes leads to rulings that some readers will find contentious. For example, most other East Londoners will know that Liverpool Street boasts a handsome Wetherspoons called “Hamilton Hall” attached by the hip to the station building. However, the smaller underground exit across the way is Google’s interpretation for the canonical “underground” exit for Liverpool Street. Hamilton Hall is 374 feet from that point, whereas the lesser known Lord Aberconway is a mere 89 feet, meaning that the Lord Aberconway has found its way into this map as Liverpool Street’s local.
In two instances I overruled Google on distance. Those instances were the Cock Tavern by Highbury & Islington station, and the Bayswater Arms by Bayswater Underground station. In both cases, Google inexplicably routed me around a huge block, when the entrance to the underground and the entrance to the pub were clearly a matter of feet apart. I found the distance featured here by instead placing a marker on maps outside the entrance of the pub.
In nine instances, there was an exact tie on distance. In eight of those nine, Google was measuring in miles – for example Toolan’s London and The Bohemia were both 0.5 miles from Woodside Park Underground Station. But in the notable case of Finsbury Park, The Twelve Pins and The Blackstock were both exactly 282 feet from the underground. In these instances, I resorted to alphabetisation which excluded the word “the”.
*Homing pigeons have been observed to follow geographical features, mainly such as human transport links, rather than fly directly. Is this the same for crows? If it is, this phrase should be replaced immediately because “as the crow flies” is almost always used to contrast against the way the crow would actually fly IRL.
Notes and Exceptions
The Red Lion & Pineapple was an equal distance from Acton Town station to the Talbot Inn, and alphabetisation landed The Red Lion & Pineapple a place on our map.
One of two pubs where Google distance was overruled. For some reason, the map insisted on routing me round
Edgware Road is two underground stations which are marked distinctly on the tube map. The Bakerloo line runs under the first Edgware Road station, which is next door to The Green Man. The Hammersmith & City, Circle, and District Lines all run under the main Edgware Road station, for which The Chapel is the closest pub.
The Hydrant is very narrowly permitted to be a pub according to the methodology discussed above. The second closest would have been The Ship, which is unambiguously a pub.
The Colbert was closer than The Fox & Hounds, but was deemed not to be a pub. The Colbert’s website describes it as a “Parisian cafe-bistro”
The Queens looks rough as hell, and is not properly demarked on Google Maps, which links the viewer to a school. Our view is that working men’s club is different from a pub, and that this is a pub.
LHT Urban bar was deemed not to be a pub but a bar. It consistently describes itself as a bar on its website and live music is available (which is possible in pubs, but does steer the venue towards “bar” status).
Hammersmith & City
Hammersmith and Paddington are often counted as two stations. They are not by Google, and since station name_station underground is the canonical point,
The Queens Tavern is indeed closer as the crow flies than The Defector’s Weld, but Google measures 0.4 miles to the Defectors Weld and 0.5 miles to the Queens Tavern by walking distance.
The Green is also 0.4 miles to Wood Lane station, and The Green was narrowly judged to count as a pub, as the closest pub to Shepherd’s Bush Market. (Google describes The Green as a bar, but we’re ruling Google out of considerations because the descriptions are not reliable.) The Green’s own website opts for the neutral “venue” and the company is owned by Stonegate Pubs company. Alphabetisation therefore leads us to The Defector’s Weld.
The Garden Bar & Grill was ruled a bar, and is therefore not eligible to appear in this map.
Leadbelly’s Bar & Kitchen was ruled a bar, and therefore not eligible to appear on this map.
The O2 has two pub-like venues which are closer to the underground than the Pilot. The first is the O2 Slug & Lettuce, which was ruled out following a brief office debate because it became clear the Stonegate Pub Company classed them as bars. The Harvester restaurant in the O2, but we eventually decided that the Harvester’s description of their own venue as restaurants, plus the quasi-pub status of O2 venues, relegated the Harvester out of the pub category.
Buildings within buildings suffer severe penalties in pub rulings. On the one hand, all three of Heathrow’s pubs are in Terminals – to overrule the Terminal 5 Wetherspoons as the closest pub to the Terminal 5 tube exit seems a clear breach of common sense. The tube exit is for the airport; and to not select a pub within the airport would be kind of insane.
Kingsbury, Queensbury, Neasden, Dollis Hill
There is nothing in the name format “Name’s” which precludes pub status.
JJ Moon’s in Kingsbury is a Wetherspoon and was granted pub status on that basis. Buckley’s, Tony’s and Moloney’s in Queensbury, Dollis Hill, and Neasden all have “Free House” written on their signs, which takes precedence over bar descriptors elsewhere.
St John’s Wood
The Ordnance arms is the same distance away from the underground as the Duke of York, and alphabetisation was used to select the Duke of York as the closest pub.
The Rose & Crown was an equal distance as The Ordnance Arms.
The Moon on the Hill, Wards Freehouse, and the Trinity are all of equal distance from Harrow-on-the-Hill.
The Locker Room was not permitted on the basis that it’s a “sports bar.” The windowless wooden design and the fact that it says sports bar on the side of the building was the reason for this judgement.
The Crock of Gold and the Village Inn were of equal distance to Ruislip station.
The Beaufort Pub & Diner and The Chandos Arms are the same distance from the station.
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