The War Years at Bettys in York

The War Years at Bettys in York

While today Bettys is known for its Afternoon Tea, during the Second World War Bettys in York was famous for another reason – its bar.

A few years before war broke out Frederick had managed to secure a liquor licence and opened a cocktail bar on the ground floor and a further bar in the basement known as ‘the Dive’.

It was to prove a smart move and during the war years the bar became popular among servicemen, many of them Canadian bomber crew, stationed at the airbases surrounding York.

Many of those servicemen left a poignant reminder of their time in York by scratching their names onto a mirror which hung behind the bar. The mirror, engraved with hundreds of signatures, is still on display at Bettys York today.

In 1943 the army tried to requisition the York café. They reconsidered after Frederick explained that Bettys was providing 20,000 meals and beverages per week, making a valuable contribution to the war effort. Bettys also pointed out that many of their patrons were themselves from the forces.

Throughout the war the cafés remained as busy as ever, despite the food shortages. Frederick found himself stretching rations to feed as many people as possible and creating confections out of salvaged goods that would have gone to waste. Gone were the cream-filled fancies and rich chocolates that Bettys had become well known for making. Bettys was now known as being one of the few cafés who were able to stretch their meat and fish rations far enough to provide meals all day.

Bettys Bar, affectionately referred to as ‘the Dive’

‘Here’s Bettys Bar’ – Tatler, 1944

One of the signatures from Bettys mirror

A Bettys bakery delivery van being used as a makeshift ambulance during an ARP (Air Raid Precautions) test