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What is a Club?

Clubs have a rich history in across the UK, and campaigning to support and promote them is a core part of CAMRA’s mission – but what exactly is a club?

Definition of a Club

CAMRA defines clubs as:

  • private members’ clubs.
  • operated and governed for the benefit of their members.
  • where any surpluses are reinvested for the benefit of the membership.

The Detail:

Not all clubs operate the same way, they’re as varied as the communities that own and run them. Some might charge a membership fee to join, and most (but not all) allow guest members. Unlike pubs, clubs may operate under a full premises licence, or a clubs premises certificate or, in some cases, both types of licence.

The most common types of clubs include: social clubs, working men’s clubs, ex-servicemen’s clubs, political clubs, sports clubs (e.g. cricket, rugby, football, golf, bowling, sailing, tennis, sports supporters clubs), religious clubs, and Student Unions.


Licensed premises that might have the word ‘club’ in their name, but which are not governed by a membership and whose profits are not used for the members’ benefit are not clubs.

Clubs are private members’ clubs, operated for the benefit of their members, whilst the premises may not be owned by the members. Operated means that the operations of the club is governed by its members, typically a committee, although the actual running of the club may be performed by salaried staff, e.g. a club steward and a team of bar staff.

Commercial sports centres such as leisure centres should be considered as such rather than as private members’ clubs.

Proprietary clubs owned by an individual or business with a view to making a profit, rather than existing for the benefit of their members, fall within the category of ‘Other Drinking Establishments’.

Our campaigning

The aims of CAMRA clubs campaigning focus on raising the profile of club going, encouraging people to use and become members of clubs, increasing the numbers of clubs offering real ales, ciders and perries to their members, and raising awareness of those clubs that provide them.

As with all CAMRA activity, clubs campaigning is led by volunteers at both the national and local level. If you have any questions or would like to get involved you can contact

Club of the Year

Clubs that are operated and governed for the benefit of their members are important community assets. As well as promoting the social and well-being benefits of membership, and the vital work they do to support their local communities, CAMRA also recognises them through our awards.

Find out about the club we voted the best in the nation with our Club of the Year Award. 

Heritage Clubs

This project is currently under development, and aims to produce a Register of heritage clubs with important historic interiors. The Register is a vital part of our structured statement of national club preservation priorities and will identify the country’s most outstanding club interiors in terms of their high degree of intactness and/or exceptional rooms or features.

Below you can access the selection criteria and nomination guidance for the Register, more information will be added as the project progresses.

If you would like to get involved, or to nominate a club, please email

Selection Criteria

Click here to access the selection criteria for the Register of Clubs with Historic Interiors.


Nomination Guidance

Find more information about how to submit a club to the register.


More resources 

Ready to find out more about clubs?

Browse the links to download our full definition, or head over to our Learn & Discover pages to join writer Katie Mather for an intro to clubs or Rachel Hendry for her piece on the history of working men’s clubs.