What Is The Difference Between A Pub And A Bar

When it comes to hospitality establishments, two words that people often use interchangeably are ‘pub’ and ‘bar’. While the two terms do overlap in their meaning, they are not exactly the same. In this article, we’ll break down the difference between a pub and a bar, examining the subtle and not-so-subtle contrasts and similarities between the two.

First and foremost, let’s define what a pub is. The word ‘pub’ is an abbreviation for ‘public house’ – an establishment that has been around for centuries, providing drinks, food, and a communal space for people to gather. Traditionally, pubs in the UK and Ireland were often attached to a brewery, and would serve the local community as a social hub. Pubs were typically quite small, with a cozy and intimate atmosphere, often featuring low ceilings, exposed brickwork or wooden paneling, and a roaring fire.

In contrast, a bar is a more modern concept, and can be found all over the world. The word ‘bar’ comes from the counter where drinks are served, and specifically refers to an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages. While many bars do serve food, it is not considered a core part of their offering. Bars can range from tiny dive bars to sprawling multi-level venues, and often have a more contemporary feel, with modern decor, high ceilings, and neon lighting.

So, how do these two establishments differ in terms of atmosphere, clientele, and offering? Let’s take a closer look.


As we mentioned, pubs have a cozy and intimate atmosphere. This is partly due to their history – pubs were often built as small, family-run businesses that served as a gathering place for the local community. This sense of community is still evident in many pubs today, with regular patrons networking and socializing over a pint or two. Pubs often have low lighting, and traditional features such as open fires and wooden beams, which add to the warm and welcoming feel.

Bars, on the other hand, can have a much wider range of atmospheres. While some bars might be dimly lit and cozy, others might have high ceilings, bright lighting, and a modern aesthetic. Bars can be more impersonal than pubs, serving as a place to meet up with friends or go on a night out without necessarily knowing everyone around you.


Pubs and bars also attract different clients. Pubs are often seen as a place where families, couples, and groups of friends can socialize over a pint while enjoying a meal. They create an atmosphere that is conducive to conversation and relaxation, and as a result, pub-goers will often stay for several hours at a time.

Bars, on the other hand, tend to attract a younger clientele that is looking for a night out. People who go to bars are often less interested in sitting down for a meal and more interested in socializing, dancing, and having a good time. They might come to the bar with a specific group of friends, or they might be open to meeting new people and making connections.


Finally, the biggest difference between pubs and bars is their offering. Pubs traditionally serve a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, as well as food, which is often focused on hearty pub grub such as pies, fish and chips, and roast dinners. Pubs often have a good range of beer on tap, with locally brewed ales and lagers being a popular choice. While pubs might have TVs showing sports, they are not typically the type of place where people come to watch a big game – this is more the domain of sports bars.

Bars, on the other hand, have a much broader offering when it comes to drinks. While they will still serve beer and wine, they often have a wider range of cocktails, spirits, and shots. In addition, many bars will have a DJ or live music, making them a prime destination for dancing and clubbing.


In conclusion, while the overlap between pubs and bars is significant, there are several key differences between the two. Pubs are often smaller, cozier, and serve food as a core part of their offering, while bars are more modern and serve as a destination for drinking and socializing. While both types of establishments are popular in their own right, understanding the differences between them can help you choose the right place for the right occasion. Whether you’re looking for a quiet pint with friends or a night of dancing and clubbing, there’s a pub or a bar out there for you.