In the UK, I know what an "off-license" is, but what is the origin of this name?

A long time ago I learnt that the only legal shop to buy alcohol in the UK was at a special shop, called an “off-license”. Is this still the only way? I beleive it is similar to “Liquor Strores” in the USA.

I live in Spain, where most alcoholic beverages are sold at plain supermarkets.

It’s a place that has a licence to sell alcohol for consumption off the premises, as opposed to a pub or restaurant which will be licenced to sell for consumption on the premises.

Not the same as the US at all. There are 50 states plus some territories. In nine of them, you must buy alcohol from the state. Others do things like requiring hard liquor to be bought in liquor stores, but beer and wine can be bought at the grocery store. In my own state and several others, anyone can sell any type of alcohol if they have the license.

I’ll let a real Brit chime in, but off-licenses can be connected to regular stores. They are named because you can take alcohol from them and consume it off of the premises.

I don’t know the origin of the name sorry, but no, all UK supermarkets, many mini-marts, newsagents, petrol stations etc are now licensed to sell alcohol. Even department stores have some kind of exemption to sell alcohol as in the run up to Christmas, gift sets including bottles of liqueurs (e.g. Tia Maria, Bailleys) appear on the shelves!

Licensing laws vary between countries within the UK (e.g. in Scotland you can’t buy booze before 12.30pm on Sundays) but in general, it’s easy to get hold of.

So how do you pronounce it? I dont think I’ve ever heard it pronounced. By its etymology, it would seem you would emphasize “off” a bit more than “license”, whereas if the phrase came from something that wasn’t fully licensed, then you’d pronounce them more or less even ly.

Yes, the emphasis is on “off”

Uh, you pronounce it however you pronounce those particular words. There is a short space in between when most people I know say it. Two separate words, one concept, hence the hyphen.

Or you call it an “offie”.

It’s the consumption off the premises thing for sure. Some (most?) pubs also have an off license, but it runs on different hours to the pub opening hours.

Lots and lots of business can and do obtain an off license, and there’s no distinction between wine, beer and spirits.

Or a “beeroff”.

There are two distinct kinds of licence for selling alcohol - for consumption on the premises and off the premises (some establishments would have both, so the pub could sell you a bottle or jug of beer to take home). These licences themselves became known as ‘an off licence’ and ‘an on licence’ (that is, in the sense “the landlord of the Red Lion has an Off Licence” - referring to a document) - and the name was subsequently applied to the establishments that carried the licences.

It’s “licence” with a C, not an S, because it’s a noun. Cf. practice/practise, advice/advise.

Actually, that is no longer true. There are now simply premise licences, although they can have conditions which make them just like the old on-/off-licences.

…and I’ve just spotted that “premises” is a noun, but spelt with an S even in British English. So much for that rule.

Yeah - second verse, same as the first.

No. You can buy alcohol at off-licenses (stores devoted to selling alcohol), and at every supermarket, newsagent, or grocery store.

It’s a colloquial term referring to the license held by the establishment (licensed to sell alcohol for consuption off the premises). The shops don’t refer to themselves as an “off license” (at least, not officially).

The law for drinking in Britain has never been straightforward has it? :smiley:

The Sunday drinking laws in Scotland used to be very strange, travellers laws etc.

I’m sure some shops used to, Threshers is the chain that comes to mind. I’ve not seen one for a few years now though, most booze is sold in supermarkets now.

Plenty of shops have the words “Off Licence” written on the front of them.

Some pubs used to have a “jug and bottle” door. Inside was a small counter where you could take the aforementioned containers to be filled up with beer. These you could then take away to drink at home. That was also a form of off-licence.

Historically, the ‘off-licence’ was the only place where you could buy beer or spirits outside of a pub (except as part of a meal in a ‘licenced’ restaurant). This sole source procurement ceased some years ago when the big supermarket chains lobbied to be allowed to sell alcohol too. Now most reasonably big (and many small) stores sell it, although only within the permitted hours, which may be only a portion of the stores hours.