Thursday, 20 May 2010

Is time up for "24-hour drinking"?

The new government are planning to review the operation of the 2003 Licensing Act in response to concerns about the disorder caused by so-called “24-hour drinking”. But, in reality, there’s no such thing as 24-hour drinking – it’s just a typical piece of Daily Mail scaremongering. I’d be surprised if there was a single pub or bar in the country that actually was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the sale of alcohol. It’s also a misconception that these problems have only developed after 2005 when the Act came into operation. Before then, plenty of pubs in town and city centres already had extended hours, while nightclubs were open until 3 am, and there was no shortage of alcohol-related disorder on the streets. From what I’ve read, the general experience of senior police officers has been that things are no worse than they were before, albeit a bit more spread out through the small hours.

Personally I gain very little from the extension of licensing hours, and there are probably only a couple of occasions each year when I take advantage of being able to have a drink in a pub after 11 pm. The ending of afternoon closing in the 1980s made much more of a difference to me. But it would be a seriously retrograde step to revert to generalised 11 pm closing, and that caused problems of its own with crushes and fights at kebab shops and taxi ranks. Certainly in my experience it’s much easier to get a cab home from the pub at closing time than it used to be.

The problem is not in the hours themselves but in our toxic drinking culture that perversely stigmatises moderate drinking while celebrating gross excess. It is no longer, as it once was, seen as a point of pride to be able to “hold your drink”. Maybe the answer is for the police to make more use of the powers they already have to bang people up in the cells overnight for being drunk and disorderly. Once the word got around, that would send a salutary message to weekend revellers to keep their drinking under control.

And it has to be said that you never see any of this disorder associated with pubs majoring on cask ales and craft beers – perhaps if people were encouraged to take more of an interest in what they were drinking they would have a more responsible attitude towards it.


  1. The only pub in my town with a
    24 licence is usually shut by 10pm.
    Its on its way out because of
    you know what.

    One local labour supporting complete arsehole blames the later openings for the demise of the pub scene.He blames Thatcher ,so help me

    Even the Tavern of the Sitting Dead, Wetherspoons ,shuts early
    now that they open at 7am.

    I sometimes wonder if I belong to
    this planet.

    Earl Grey XI

  2. The BBC are also guilty of perpetuating the myth of "24 Hour Drinking". Unfortunately this scare story seems to have become embedded in the public psyche. Only today I was having this very same argument with a work colleague who was banging on about "24 Hour Drinking".

    When I challenged him to name an establishment that allows drinking right round the clock he was, of course, unable to do so. He is a Daily Mail reader though!!

    On a more serious note, it will definitely be a retrograde step if pubs have to revert back to 11pm closong. Like yourself, I don't often take advantage of staying in the pub much beyond this time, but closing time, in a well-run pub, is much more civillised than it used to be.

  3. I tend not to stay out late but I like pubs being open all afternoon, but I wouldn't want to deny anyone drinking at any time of the day or night. Live and let live is what I say. It is about time licensing laws were left alone for a while.

  4. @Paul G - I've often thought that the best thing the new government could do for the pub trade was absolutely nothing, just leave it alone for a couple of years. No new initiatives or bright ideas.

  5. I'm a big fan of the flexibility of pubs being able to stay open later, in reality few if any are open all night, but lots of local pubs will close at 12am or 1am at the weekend rather than 11, soaking up that extra bit of trade for the week and giving punters a couple of late night pints.

    I've no doubt the extended hours have caused trouble as some people stay longer, drink more (the rowdy pubs I know with discos perhaps). But there's no epidemic caused by pubs being open later (many were anyway, with the curtains closed). And there's always the viewpoint that the closing time rush is now a more civilised affair.

    If it's a step towards a more continental approach to our relationship with alcohol then hopefully it's not something to be repealed but a building block.

  6. At the risk of sounding astonishingly naive, on reading the article I had to rack my brains when I last saw a serious argument let alone fisticuffs in a pub or bar and still can't think of one. Of course many towns do appear to be blighted with closing time violence, but is it overstated?

    On your point about punishment if a few of the real trouble makers had the punishment that fitted the crime, with real penalties, as you say the troubles may disappear.

  7. I do know of a couple of places that maintain 24 hour licenses - but they only use them once a year or so for a special event - and they are all clubs, not pubs or bars...

    The pubs that have really benefitted seem to be the local village pubs around my way that stay open till half 12 or 1 (sometimes later) on friday and saturday nights full of locals enjoying a good local ale or a nice whiskey. Something that I am happy to join in with on a regular basis!

    It does seem that on the weekends the people head out to those pubs later than they did when they closed at 11. So instead of seeing people from 7ish, the pubs don't fill up until gone 9 now.

  8. I can't name anywhere that stays open 24 hours. I can't remember the last time I saw a fight in a pub; it seems to me it happened more often in the 70s. I regularly drink after 11 o' clock, but still don't see any problems. The only trouble I ever hear about in Southport is in kiddie bars and clubs, and places where Steven Gerrard drinks.

  9. I get the impression that this "alcohol-related disorder" is very much confined to the centres of a few big towns and cities. You see very little of it in Stockport as people wanting a night out tend to head for Manchester. And isn't it really not so much an alcohol problem as a public order problem?

  10. In that case Mudge, a train to Stockpit is in order to sink a gallon of Stella, eat a kebab & have a 3am rumble by the cab ranks. Wouldn't want the place missing out.

  11. For me the best thing about the changes in times is that people are no longer shouted at and harassed like cattle to get out of the
    pub as quickly as possible! (Well not as much anyway). That was one of my pet hates. For me pubs provided pretty much everything I wanted between 2005 and 2007. But I still have fond memories of eighties closing times!

  12. I've seen "alcohol-related disorder" in Norwich. It tends to centre around night clubs. Perhaps the Daily Mail should be calling for their closure if they haven't already.

  13. I often take advantage of post 11 drinking-except in straightlaced London-and so would miss it. Well, of course I wouldn't miss it, as it would merely revert to the days of pub lock-ins. It demonstrates the stupidity of many politicians that they think such a move would accomplish anything.


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