© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Alcohol misuse is a pressing area of public health concern. This non-participant observational study investigated the functional characteristics of on-licensed premises where alcohol is consumed. Seven different licensed premises from South Central England were visited and observed for similar three hour periods on Saturday evenings. Observations within these ecological niches were grouped using a functional taxonomy of affordances and effectivities related to alcohol drinking. Affordances provide a theoretically grounded and useful concept for evaluating how individuals behave in drinking contexts, while identifying action opportunities for inhibiting and promoting consumption. Identified alcohol-related affordances were related to: Alcohol access, regulations, furnishing, alternative opportunities for action, décor and lighting, drink and accessory availability, and action opportunities provided by others. This research has implications for understanding alcohol consumption in real-time, social environments, with direct implications for preventing excessive consumption within community alcohol outlets.