Monday, February 25, 2008
Britain Still in Northern Europe
When the UK allowed pubs, at local discretion, to stay open after 11PM, one of the goals was to end the practice of the simultaneous exodus of hordes of young, well, yobs from city centre bars, fighting and generally wronging the ancientry. (The yobs showed enough foresight to realise that they needed to down a few pints quickly if they hoped to get the full effect before the 11PM close.) Sometimes there was a somewhat broader goal mentioned, that of converting the British beer and spirits, binge-drinking culture (one that is not atypical of Northern climes) into the wine sipping, gentler drinking ways of Southern Europe. That broader goal, well, still needs some work. Nevertheless, the fears that the loss of mandatory closing hours would lead to a significant increase in alcohol-related problems have not come to fruition, either:
What is striking about the change is what a small effect it has had. In a way, this is not surprising, because the number of applications for extended hours has been smaller than expected. The main effect has been to move some of the alcohol-related trouble from the "unhappy hour" after 11pm to the early hours of the morning. This is precisely what some police chiefs wanted when they supported the legislation, as the concentration of chaos in a synchronised moment of fighting and puking presented them with a logistical challenge. But it is hardly a great step forward in the social health of the nation that some of our misery is a little more thinly spread.Just last week the British Medical Association issued a report blaming longer opening hours for increased alcohol-related problems; the timing was somewhat unfortunate, as the Association is currently pursuing an application to extend the hours during which it can serve alcohol at its headquarters.