El Tab review: will it cut the cost of boozing in London?

For £24.99 a month you can get up to four free drinks a night

Anyone who’s been out for drinks in London knows how much it costs.

But a new smartphone app, El Tab, is promising to change this. For a set monthly fee users can get free drinks every night of the week. But what’s the catch?

How does El Tab work?

El Tab describes itself as a ‘digital bar tab’. Every day it puts between £750 and £1,500 behind the bar of multiple venues in central London – zones one and two. These are kept a secret until around 6pm when the location is revealed to members.

If you get there while the tab’s still open, you can have up to four free drinks. You redeem these by showing your app to the bar staff. You can’t order all four drinks at the same time (no quadruple parking here) – you have to wait 15 minutes between each order.

Once a month it features a bar with a £5,000 tab and it may also offer bonus offers for the evening’s venues, such as discounts off food or bonus drinks.

It currently has ‘several thousand’ users and there are more than 300 bars on its rosta including Two More Years in Hackney Wick and Ester, near Camden.

El Tab costs £24.99 a month – almost £300 a year – but you can try it for seven days for £1 with the promo code ‘THIRSTY’. If you don’t cancel before it ends, you’ll be rolled onto the monthly membership.

You’re not locked into a contract and your membership can be cancelled at any time. But if you unsubscribe in the middle of the month, you’ll still pay for that month. El Tab says refunds will only be given in exceptional circumstances.

What’s the catch?

Firstly, you’re limited to where you drink. Every night you’re given the option of three or four bars in zone one and two. Once a month a larger venue is made available with a £5,000 bar tab. Your four free drinks can be spread across the available venues each night.

The venues are revealed at 6pm on the day, so you may already have made plans by then, or you may find they’re not in a convenient location for you or your friends.

Clues are released on El Tab’s Instagram throughout the day so you may be able to guess where you’re going and you can give yourself a half an hour head start by clicking the ‘Power Up’ button in the app which will reveal the location before it’s released to everyone else. This feature costs an additional £2.99.

The bar money could run out before you get there. El Tab says 60% of tabs run completely dry but you can check on the app how many drinks are left on each tab.

Not all drinks are included. Some venues have a set list and others will only give you drinks up to a certain value.
You may find featured places become more busy and queues become bigger. When the tab is closed, it’ll disappear from the app. So if you’ve not left work yet, you’ll know not to bother.

El Tab says to ensure the best value they have a limit of 500 members per tab – but that still means the bar money isn’t going to stretch that far if everyone turns up. If you try to join a tab and find it’s full, you can enter your email to be alerted when membership reopens.

The service is also only available in London, although El Tab says it’s working on launching in other cities.

And without wishing to sound like your mum, don’t just booze every night to get your money’s worth and please drink responsibly.

What are people saying about it?

El Tab gets a score of 4.8 on the App Store and 4.9 on Google Play, with lots of people saying it’s great value, has saved them hundreds of pounds and is a brilliant way to explore London with your friends.

There’s a few comments from people who appear to be long-time members (the app launched in 2021) who aren’t happy with how some of the rules have changed. One user says they used to be able to get up to four free drinks in three different bars each night (so 12 in total) for £18.99 a month (the previous membership fee). The offer was then reduced to four drinks in one bar per night for the same price.

Another member said there were now limitations on what drinks you can get – a set list or house drinks only – and as the popularity has increased, so has the line to get served.

Is it worth it?

I doubt I’m the only one who’s felt mild-to-moderate panic handing over their card for a round of drinks in London.

The capital’s one of the most expensive places to drink, with the average pint costing £6.10, compared to the UK average of £4.70. In some London establishments, you could be looking at pints for £7 or more.

So an app that promises to save social butterflies money while supporting the city’s bars, is a win-win.

If you’re already out a lot in central London, you’ll definitely save with El Tab. You’d likely cover the £24.99 monthly fee in one night if you manage to get all four free drinks.

But like any membership, it’s only good value if you actually use it. When I worked in central London, it was really easy to meet my friends for drinks and I was always out.

But, once I started working from home, I kept it much more local. You couldn’t drag me to central London on a school night for all the free drinks in the world.

Saying that, you could give it a go for a week for £1 and see if it suits your socialising. I definitely would if I was in my twenties, living it up in London.

El Tab summary

Cost:Membership is £24.99 a month
Benefits:Up to four free drinks every night of the week
Limits:Between £750 and £1,500 put behind three or four bars
Locations only revealed from 6pm

One thought on “El Tab review: will it cut the cost of boozing in London?

  1. If you sign up, do you get a discount at Alcoholics Anonymous?


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.