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Where does this phrase come from? 

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I've always assumed it comes from similar to 'Off License' (i.e. the premises is licensed to sell alcohol to take away and be consumed off the premises)? Not sure if that is the case, but makes sense in my head.

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Beer off -  missing out the license bit after it. We also used that phrase for any any shops that just sold alchohol as well as the out sales at various local pubs.. 

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Pubs used to have a beer off that if you were old enough you could get beer & fags without going into the public bar

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Licensed premises used to have either an "on license" or an "off license" (or a combination of the two i.e. "on" and off"). So pubs would have an "on license" allowing them to sell alcohol for consumption "on" the premises. Shops would have an 'off' license implying that the product had to be taken away and consumed 'off' the premises. Some pubs were only licensed to sell beer, so you wouldn't be able to buy spirits in that kind of pub. So, likewise, a beer-off might only be licensed to sell beer for consumption off the premises and not spirits. There were also categories for ale, porter etc.  etc .

A typical license (which had to be displayed over the door) might read somethhing like "Jim Smith is licensed to sell ale, beer, porter, wine and spirits for consumption on or off the premises".

Ayfer.

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'Off License' phrase probably doesn't date back before 1900, though the Licence itself dates before 1800, with the scandal of the Gin drinking days.

It clearly developed due to the need of selling alcoholic beverages for drinking at home and the use of celebrations. Off Licenses were used a lot by women, who did not like going into public bars, indeed in some they were not allowed!   

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1 hour ago, History dude said:

Off Licenses were used a lot by women, who did not like going into public bars, indeed in some they were not allowed!

Off topic slightly but your comment reminded me of pubs I remember in Manchester which were men only or had men only rooms. I don't remember any in Sheffield at that time but wondered if other members remembered any post war pubs with "men only" or even had information of Sheffield pubs that practised this in earlier times.

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On 15 April 2019 at 18:51, ayfer said:

Licensed premises used to have either an "on license" or an "off license" (or a combination of the two i.e. "on" and off"). So pubs would have an "on license" allowing them to sell alcohol for consumption "on" the premises. Shops would have an 'off' license implying that the product had to be taken away and consumed 'off' the premises. Some pubs were only licensed to sell beer, so you wouldn't be able to buy spirits in that kind of pub. So, likewise, a beer-off might only be licensed to sell beer for consumption off the premises and not spirits. There were also categories for ale, porter etc.  etc .

A typical license (which had to be displayed over the door) might read somethhing like "Jim Smith is licensed to sell ale, beer, porter, wine and spirits for consumption on or off the premises".

Ayfer.

Couldn't have explained this any better, spot on.

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Growing up on Shiregreen I remember 2 pubs which had off licence "shops" "The Penquin"  and "The Horse shoe" they both had shop windows with displays of Bottles,  I remember the horse shoe  having empty Bottles of Gordons Gin on display, it had different flavours, orange and lemon I think, also the one at the Penquin  people used to take empty bottles in to be filled with draught beer, this was about 1963/64.

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On 02/05/2019 at 14:07, stevedb10 said:

 the one at the Penquin  people used to take empty bottles in to be filled with draught beer, this was about 1963/64.

Hence yet another name for an off-licence, "Jug and Bottle", as you had to take your own container for the beer. My parents used to use this (the expression, not the facility). I remember a variation on this when I was at University in Brum at the end of the '60s, as there was a pub where you could take a pint milk bottle and get it filled with wine or sherry for a modest price. From memory, they were not fine vintages.

On a slightly similar note, when we used to get fish & chips from Furniss' on Hollinsend Road in the early '60s, if we wanted peas we had to take a bowl for them - a ceramic one, as I don't think that plastic containers were yet commonplace.

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