Scare their pants off – top tips for Halloween in the pub

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

Ghoulish: give customers a right fright on Halloween
Ghoulish: give customers a right fright on Halloween

Related tags Premises licence Social media Halloween

Everyone loves a theme, especially around Halloween. Whether it is a spooky drinks menu, a ghoulish food offer or a full-blown American-style fancy dress party, Halloween is the perfect time of year to boost sales.

Yet, there is more to it than just putting on special food and drink menus, operators must also take into account the legalities such as licensing​ and safety to ensure the only ones receiving a fright are the punters.

The legal stuff:

  • Check your premises licence​ to ensure your licensable activities are right for the event:
    • Look at non-standard timings on your licence, as you may be able to open for an extra hour or two on Halloween and do this with enough time to post a temporary event notice (TEN)
    • Your TEN must be with the licensing authority, police and environmental health department a minimum of five working days before the event – if any of the above object then it automatically becomes invalid
    • Your glassware​ must comply with your licensing conditions:
      • Your glassware must be compliant with your licence, which could become an issue if you are planning a Halloween-themed cocktail menu
      • Drinks offers ​must not fall foul of any mandatory conditions
      • Remember if you do not have the relevant permitted licensable activities on your licence and want to have a disco, DJ or live band​ outside then the exemptions of the Live Music Act may help you until 11pm
      • Fancy dress, masks and makeup can make it harder to verify the age of customers. With Halloween being so popular with young adults it is a good idea to relook at your age verification​ and underage policy.
        Ensure it is strictly enforced, that staff are familiar with the rules and that any posters and literature referring to the policy are up to date and visible
      • There is nothing better than a screening of horror movies​, but be sure the premises licence allows screenings, you have the relevant TEN and the correct licence to screen films is in place – such as a Filmbank licence
      • Finally, take the time to carry out a risk assessment​ and write it down:
        • If there are plans to trade later, then door staff may be required, ensure your CCTV is in good order and monitor sound levels if there is to be music so locals are not inconvenienced

A family affair:

Halloween family fun
Extend the fun throughout the day

While events in the evening will be aimed at adults, consider making celebrations day-long by attracting families earlier in the day with activities to keep the kids occupied.

This can be as simple as free spooky biscuits for children to decorate to apple bobbing, face painting, fancy dress and games.

Spark some extra interest by investing in low-cost prizes for the best costume, most apples bobbed and the scariest painted face.

Fancy dress:

Fancy dress ideas for Halloween
Get into the spirit: theme the fancy dress

Make it mandatory that anyone entering the pub must do so in the spirit of the occasion. Create some excitement by theming the costumes along the lines of zombie heroes and heroines, ghoulish politicians or mutant Hello Kitty.

The more unusual the better, since people will want to share their looks on social media and will no doubt tag the pub in any posts.

Spooky pubs:

Halloween decorating tips
Decorating tips: make the pub look the part

It’s not just the customers who should get into character, create a full experience by decking out the pub with cauldrons, spider webs, pumpkins and dry ice.

More importantly, help staff get into the spirit by giving them a small budget towards their costumes.

Transform the pub to help punters get into the spirit of things and share their night on social media.

Encourage customers to take pictures to share on social media by creating a hashtag, such as #FarmhouseFrights, which will make it easier to find the best images to use on your pub’s social media channels throughout the week.


Dishes to make with pumpkin
All shapes and sizes: think of dishes to make with pumpkin

Get creative with food throughout the day by offering a special menu that gives the full flavour of Halloween.

It could be a whole menu devoted to gourds, such as pumpkin ravioli or roasted butternut squash and dips.

Better yet, as people are more likely to try new things, make the most of offal and whip up some delicious tongue sandwiches, chicken heart pâté or devilled kidneys.


Spooky cocktails for Halloween
From decor to drinks: Halloween-themed cocktails add to the fun

The unofficial beer of Halloween, Hobgoblin is a necessity, but consider mulled cider and cocktails for the non-beer drinkers.

London hotel Crocker’s Folly has developed its own Halloween-themed cocktail menu with drinks such as Witches Brew, Jack The Ripper and Undertaker for £9.50.

Spooky cocktails:


  • Gin
  • Egg white
  • Apricot liqueur
  • Cranberry syrup
  • Rose wine


  • Vodka
  • Cherry liqueur
  • Banana liqueur
  • Lemon juice
  • Cherry bitter


  • Tequila
  • Vinegar-shiso syrup
  • Yuzu
  • Apple juice


  • Angostura bitter
  • Whiskey
  • Orgeat (almond syrup)
  • Lemon juice

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