I think most of us are accustomed to seeing draw leaf tables like this one:
This type of piece is commonly given the name “pub table” and I am often asked why this is. I believe this term was coined either by dealers in England who sold furniture to American antique stores, or by the American antique stores themselves. It is a term that really romanticizes the draw leaf, giving it a real sense of history. Imagining all the drinks and good times that must have been had over each table gives it character.
So the question then becomes, if some dealers coined the term, where these tables not used in pubs? I believe the answer is mostly, no. Sure I think some may have come from different restaurants and watering holes. They are versatile pieces, able to switch between sitting four and six people just by pulling out leaves which would make them ideal for the food service industry. That is why a number of present day establishments use antique pub tables. The majority of them that we come across in England now were most likely used in homes. I see evidence of this in a number of ways. First, no two are exactly alike. A commissioned order of tables for a pub would have a large number of alike tables. My second reason stems from observing the way many patrons treat tables in bars and restaurants here. They tend to be less than kind to them. Present day tables are anchored and thickly lacquered to protect them from rough movement and spilled liquids. These antique tables are not and if you can imagine 100 years of that kind of abuse, they wouldn’t be worthy of using.
While I like the name pub table and I agree its an appropriate name for the style, I do not think the majority of pieces you see today actually came from pubs. They were used in homes much like we do today as kitchen tables where families had their meals on them and shared their lives together, which is no less of a romantic idea than having them come from pubs.