An ‘inn’ is a public house that, traditionally, offers lodging, refreshments, and food. Many owners of pubs like to refer to them as ‘inns’ because of the quaint, emotional attachment that people have to the word. The idea of an ‘inn’, to many people, is that of an attractive, rural and homely establishment that is friendly and accommodating.
Legally, there is some association with the word ‘inn’, and there are even laws in some jurisdictions that refer specifically to inns, such as laws regarding the defrauding of an innkeeper by obtaining food, lodging or beverages that a person is not entitled to. The modern implementation of those laws is that they apply even to pubs and restaurants, not just historical inns.
Throughout history, inns were important because they provided food and lodging for weary travelers. They were located along the main highways, and they would, in the era before cars, often have a stable for horses as well. As cars became more commonplace, inns still had a major role to play. It’s because people still need to travel, only now they travel longer distances. However, there are now motels – which are similar to inns, just bigger in accommodation, and able to hold more people. Motels are less personal in their service and are usually located in more remote locations.
Inns were more personal than other establishments, and the owner of the inn would greet each person and decide if there was “room for them.” This is something that would not be considered healthy or good form these days. Today, establishment owners are not supposed to turn patrons away because they could be accused of discrimination if they did so.
The world has changed a lot since the era of real inns, but the term is still something that barkeepers like to use – especially ones who are located in buildings that were originally used for that purpose. For some reason, we don’t like the idea of staying in bed and breakfast, but an inn is something that holds more appeal. Anyone can call any establishment an inn – there are no rules or regulations regarding that – so it’s hard to say what the word means these days. But in most cases, when someone says that they went to an inn, it means a friendly and relatively small pub, rather than a big hotel.