Good, the long-awaited review of the Licensing Act 2005 which brought in potential round-the-clock pub and bar opening is published today. Overall, despite the terror campaigns against the extension by papers such as the Daily Mail and the MEN, it seems that nothing much has happened. According to the latest from Auntie Beeb, the report will reveal that overall there has been less crime (or a leveling off) so the horror stories were simply fiction.
To tackle binge drinking is a much bigger problem than later licensing, it goes far deeper than that.
More importantly, the Act has proved that treating adults like adults has resulted in a satisfying increase in freedom: now we can potentially drink when and where we want. This has been a freedom gained rather than one restricted: when did that last happen?
In any case, more license extensions have been in the nature of an hour or two here or there. On Friday and Saturday night that might be different, The Northern has potential to stay open until 4am, for instance. Strikingly though, not many places allow for 24 hour drinking: Confidential’s scratching its head to think of a single Manchester example.
The success will really piss off the new-puritans and their allies, the aforementioned Daily Mail, diverse middle-Englanders, sundry Christians and Muslims. Their argument against extended hours was always based on a larger prejudice which dislikes the commoners enjoying themselves on one side, and the relaxation of a moral code on the other. It was pretext for mouthing off about drink itself.
Any fool – even the above ones - can see that there is absolutely no correlation between the bizarre scenes on British High Streets on weekends and extended licensing. To tackle binge drinking is a much bigger problem than later licensing, it goes far deeper than that. There are a zillion ingredients in that particular punch: education, national character, history, opportunity, retail price wars. The big issue at the moment, teenage drinking has nothing to do with pubs and bars, not least because they don’t drink there.
And we all know this isn’t a new phenomena. It just seems worse, because there are more bars down High Streets - often badly run - there’s been more money about and drinks are cheaper and society is less cohesive. In the Munich memorial paper the MEN released, it was interesting to see in the small print in that 1958 organ, a little report from Oldham about the menace of female teen drinkers.
What perhaps we should do is look at the success of the liberalizing Licensing Act 2005 and work out what we can un-ban next?