Don’t accept short measures

Taking a closer look at the pub trade within the City of London

The City of London Trading Standards Service is encouraging consumers to feel confident in asking for a top up if it is felt that a short measure pint has been sold. This needs to be done before drinking starts and bar staff should normally meet your request without any fuss.

Was your pint a short measure?

If you take your beermat and hold it against your glass, you should be able to get a rough idea of how many percent short measure your pint is.  If your beer has been sold in a brim measure, you must hold the beer mat to the top of the glass.  If your beer has been sold in a less common line measure, hold the top of the beermat against the line marked near the top of the glass. 

For anything that is short measure, and particularly anything more than 5% short, we recommend that you ask the bar staff for an immediate top-up. In most cases, bar staff will happily comply with your reasonable request. It is worth remembering that for a pint costing £5, a deficiency of 5% represents a cost to you of 25p.

If you don’t feel confident to ask for a top up, or you get an unhelpful reaction when you do, you can contact Trading Standards to report the matter.

Reporting short measure

Contact Trading Standards by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06. Lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

We want to identify the pubs that are selling short measures. If you purchased a pint that is more than 5% deficient from a pub within the City of London – also known as the Square Mile – we would like to hear from you. You can email us at shortmeasurebeer@cityoflondon.gov.uk

Please give us the name and location of the pub, the type of beer involved and the date and time of the sale. You could even send us a photo of your short measure pint on your smart phone if you wanted to. It would also be helpful to have your name and contact telephone number but you don’t have to provide this.

If you purchased your pint in another location outside of the City of London and wish to complain, you can still report this to Trading Standards by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 03454 04 05 06 as above.

What are we doing?

We have already written to all pubs in the City of London to remind them how important it is to try and provide a full pint. If we get evidence that particular pubs are not meeting their legal obligations, the information that you provide can help us to identify those pubs that we need to visit. We will not necessarily contact you unless we need to do so but we thank you for your assistance.

The law

In the UK, draught beer must be sold by reference to quantity and normally in quantities of half a pint or multiples of a half pint. It is one of the few imperial measures that are still allowed to be used following metrication some time ago.

The normal quantity of beer asked for in pubs across the City of London is a pint which is measured into a pint glass that bears a stamp to show it is an accurate measure. Most pubs use what are termed brim measures – this means that they contain a pint when full to the top. A few pubs may still use glasses that are called line measures – these are slightly over-sized glasses that have a line near the top to show the level of one pint. Even fewer pubs may use what are called ‘beer measuring instruments’ that accurately dispense beer into a glass in multiples of a half pint.

One of the problems with using a brim measure for the sale of beer is that it is virtually impossible to get a full pint of liquid due to the frothy head that is formed when the beer is dispensed into a glass. Over the years, the generally accepted norm is that a pint containing a minimum 95% liquid and 5% head is OK. However, this is a legally complex area and if you ask for a pint, perhaps you should really expect to get a full pint of liquid. As part of this project, a legal opinion has been obtained from experts at Gough Square Chambers.

In an ideal world, all pubs would be required by law to use line measures, making it far easier to get a full pint of liquid. However, no such legislation currently exists and pubs can legally use brim measures.

Responsible drinking

Most people can drink responsibly and enjoy alcohol as a social activity with friends, family and work colleagues.

If you think you’ve got a drinking problem, or would like advice on how to reduce your alcohol intake, WDP Square Mile Health offers free and confidential support.

Underage drinking

Only people over the age of 18 can legally purchase alcohol. Those selling alcohol are aware of the rules and normally follow the ‘Challenge 25’ guidelines, asking anyone who appears to be under the age of 25 years for photo identification to prove that they are over 18 years old.

If you think any pubs or other retail premises are selling alcohol illegally to people under the age of 18, you can report it to Trading Standards. Call 03454 04 05 06, Monday to Friday between 9am - 5pm.