We have a funny attitude to alcohol in the UK. On the one hand, we have the most draconian licensing laws in Europe. On the other, we abuse the substance more than any country in the Western world. With the possible exception of Australia, who would enter a drinking team to the Olympics if they could.
So it’s been interesting to read the backlash against the proposed licensing reform laws today. Apparently, warn senior judges and the police, extending pub opening hours will lead to an increase in violence, sexual assault and public disorder. In addition, wild tigers will roam school playgrounds, Gibraltar will fall to the Spanish and plagues of locusts will descend upon the Home Counties. Or something.
Personally, I’m not convinced we need 24 hour pubs either. That seems a bit excessive. But it is without question that we need to liberalise the current laws. How patronising to be ordered to stop drinking at 11pm. “The government has decided that you’ve had enough. Now go home. You have to be at the munitions factory at 7am.” A ridiculous hangover (excuse the pun) from World War One that is totally at odds with lifestyles in the 21st century.
Truth be told, if pubs were open all day in this country, it would be carnage. It’s bad enough in late bars now thanks to a sizeable chunk of arseholes, but why should the majority have to suffer because of them? Is it really so ridiculous to propose that, on a Friday or Saturday night we should, if we so choose, be allowed to stay in the pub until one or two in the morning? Oh, the horror of it all!
I seem to remember a similar resistance in the late 1980s when the law changed and allowed bars to stay open from 11am to 11pm without having to shut between three and seven. All hell would break loose, some claimed. People wouldn’t go back to work. Children wouldn’t be picked up from school. The very fabric of society would be torn apart. Didn’t happen, did it? And it won’t this time, either.
It’s all a fuss about nothing anyway. Hardly any pubs will apply to open 24 hours a day: it wouldn’t be economically feasible for them to do so. But if landlords want to stay open for a few hours more (even if it’s only at the weekend) they should be allowed to do so and I, for one, will be cheering when this finally happens.
Mine’s a pint. Oops, no, I can’t. It’s 11:01pm. It’s against the law.