Gothenburg Public Houses

The Gothenburg or Trust Public House movement originated as an attempt to control the consumption of alcohol in the Swedish city of Gothenburg in the early 19th century. In 1855 a law was passed in Sweden making distillation of spirits at home illegal and the authorities in Gothenburg decided to award the retail spirits licences to a single company run as a trust. This trust aimed to control pubs and off licences in a way which would not encourage excessive consumption of spirits. 5% of the profit of the trusts went to the shareholders with the remainder being used to benefit the local community. The Gothenburg system quickly spread. In Scotland, the system was adopted mainly in mining communities of Fife and the Lothians.

In 1901, Joseph Rowntree described two Gothenburg public houses in Hill of Beath and Kelty

Kellogg Durland also described Kelty Gothenburg in his 1904 account, Among the Fife Miners

Newspaper reports

The Gothenburg System Experiments
It looks as if private enterprise were to solve the question of whether or not this country is to adopt experimentally the Gothenburg public-house system. Local option received its quietus for a time at least in the House of Commons the other night. Then the more drastic proposals embraced in the Permissive Bill and Local Veto schemes have all been set aside as impracticable, and out of harmony with the opinions of the great majority of the people of this country. The provisions of the Gothenburg system have been expounded over and over again, and various modifications of them have been proposed as suitable for a municipal scheme of liquor traffic. Nothing, however, has come of it. The difficulty of starting any movement for introducing a better state of things than the present may be seen in the refusal the other day of the Brechin Licensing Bench to give a license to the Bolag Company. A curious combination opposed the application, composed of Good Templars and publicans.

The experiments in Fife with regard to the Gothenburg system are therefore all the more interesting. Other villages in "the Kingdom" are following the example of Hill of Beath. The Kelty Public-House Society, Limited, have now secured a site for the proposed public-house, with ample room for a bowling-green, together with a temperance restaurant with a separate entrance. The Society, we believe, have no wish to encourage the consumption of liquor, but are of opinion that if the liquor traffic is put under public control, with no aim to make profit for the shareholders beyond a reasonable rate of interest on the money invested, excessive drinking would be diminished and good order maintained. The profits, after paying 5 per cent, interest to the shareholders, will be spent in promoting such works of public interest as the Directors may select.

The example of Fife is evidently being followed elsewhere. A company of coal pit- owners have been granted a license for a public-house to be conducted on the Gothenburg principle at the village of Standburn, Stirlingshire. These experiments on a small scale are probably destined to be the forerunners of the widespread introduction of the Gothenburg system into this country. They must, therefore, be regarded with the liveliest interest by all who wish to see a satisfactory settlement of one of the most vexed social questions of modern times. The problem of how to prevent intemperance without resort to methods which are bound to fail by running contrary to the opinions of the majority will more and more occupy the attention, not only of social reformers specially so called, but of all who take the least interest in the progress of the race. Philanthropists, who see that intemperance is a complicated disease, are coming gradually to the belief that as the causes of intemperance are numerous, so the cure, to be efficient and permanent, must be many-sided, involving the lifting of the intemperate to a higher level of self-control and the raising of the standard of environment. It is dawning on the minds of good men who at one time thought the putting down of drink-making and drink-selling could be accomplished by Act of Parliament that the world is not ready for the enforcement of the permit-me-to-prevent-you principle. And, if any modification of the Gothenburg system of licensing can be adopted, and lead to a reduction of the temptations to over- indulgence in drink, every effort to introduce that system ought to be applauded and encouraged. [Dundee Courier 12 May 1899]