Why are shops selling alcohol called “Off Licences” in the UK? If they don’t have a licence, why are they selling stuff?
Leo, 25, France
OUR BRIT SAYS:
Well, like a lot of things in the UK, it all comes down to alcohol.
There are two main types of alcohol licence in the UK – the ‘On’ licence and the ‘Off’ licence. I don’t think many people in Britain have ever questioned how their local “Offie” got its name and the idea of an “Onnie” just sounds weird!
To cut a lot of boring legal stuff short, shops are referred to as ‘Off licences’ when the owners are legally licenced to sell unopened alcoholic drinks on their premises.
This same rule applies to big supermarkets. Even though they have billions of pounds more than the shopkeeper down the road, they still have to apply for and receive one of these magical licences before they can legally sell a crate of beer.
On the other hand, the ‘On’ licence allows the owner to both sell alcohol and let you drink it on the premises. This is the licence that all pubs, clubs, cafés and bars should have if they don’t want to get shut down!