1947 Greymouth beer boycott

Page 6 – End of the 1947 beer boycott

By early December 1947 the energies of the main supporters of the beer boycott had been diverted into the formation of Working Men's Clubs (WMCs). Business was gradually returning to some pubs in the larger towns, but the boycott was still effective in smaller centres. A newspaper headline on 9 December read: 'Beer Boycott May End This Week: Publicans' Meeting'. But there was clearly determination within the Licensed Victuallers' Association (LVA) to continue the battle, and the official price of a 10-ounce beer stayed at 7d for almost another two months.

The end of Paddy’s boom

The end of the boycott spelled the end of the boom times for Paddy Keating at the Central Hotel. Numbers quickly dwindled to a few loyal customers. Although drinkers were happy to patronise his bar when he offered the best price in town, in a mining community some regarded him as a scab for breaking ranks with his fellow publicans.

Some pubs were losing money. Two of the three hotels in Blackball advised the LVA on 18 December that they were reducing the price to 6d, and others gradually followed suit. As unity crumbled the LVA had to concede, and on 5 February 1948 it issued a statement saying that publicans could choose whether they sold a 10-ounce beer for 6d or 7d. On 13 February the Greymouth Evening Star reported that all hotels in Greymouth had reverted to 6d.

The stubborn attitude of the LVA undoubtedly helped the first three WMCs get off to a strong start. If the hotels had conceded before the clubs opened in December, they might have been stillborn.

A hollow victory

Although the immediate battle to retain the price of a 10-ounce beer at 6d had been won, the publicans and breweries had learnt a lesson. Moving by stealth rather than open declaration, in the 1950s they gradually nudged beer prices upwards throughout the country. The 10-ounce glass was phased out, and publicans introduced new sizes including 7 and 12 ounces. Buying beer in jugs gradually became more common, but there were no standards about how much they should contain or how full they should be.

Many doubted that brewery glasses held as much as they should. Poet and beer drinker Denis Glover publicly measured an 8.5-ounce glass to demonstrate that he was being robbed of a penny a glass. With no organised consumer testing, drinkers could do little more than grumble. There were other local attempts at beer boycotts, but larger communities could not achieve the unity, aided by union muscle, shown in Greymouth in 1947.

How to cite this page

'End of the 1947 beer boycott', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/politics/greymouth-beer-boycott/ends, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 1-Jul-2014