To drink or not to drink...

Related tags Drink

Despite the continuing media backlash, pub-goers appear prepared to accept the new laws. James Wilmore reports.Three weeks to go and the non-stop...

Despite the continuing media backlash, pub-goers appear prepared to accept the new laws. James Wilmore reports.

Three weeks to go and the non-stop licensing show is at long last approaching its final act. On November 24 the new Licensing Act will kick in, giving many pubs up and down the country the option of staying open later - provided they have been granted an extended licence.

But there has been no let up in the national media's bid to halt the new Act. The Daily Mail's "Say No to 24-hour Drinking" campaign - which began life as "Say No to 24-hour Pubs" but was changed thanks to The Publican's own campaign - reared its head again last week. The latest media storm, claiming pub managers are being offered huge bonuses to "keep the binge drink flowing" after 11pm, had been whipped up by The Observer, normally a bastion of liberal thinking.

The paper ran a damning front-page story last Sunday, as well as an article inside revealing how Observer reporter Anushka Asthana had spent three hours in a Reading bar, where her and a friend were served 64 units of alcohol - "enough to kill them".

The missing facts

Of course nobody in their right mind would condone customers being given the opportunity to drink this much in a single night.

But one thing the article failed to mention was how much the drinks cost. It can't be disputed that some people do spend a lot of money in bars, but among all the scaremongers, few have identified where drinkers will find the extra money to pay for their drinks.

Apparently Ms Asthana and her friend did not consume all of the drinks either, giving some of them away to other customers. In this case it could be argued she and her friend may not have appeared drunk to the barmaid that was serving them.

Mark Hastings, communications director at the British Beer & Pub Association, who was quoted in the Observer piece, agreed with this point. "The crucial thing is the girls had not drunk all the drinks and would not have been drunk. It's not an offence to serve that many drinks, but it is offence to serve someone who is drunk," he said.

Mr Hastings also highlighted the fact that the amount people are spending on alcohol out of the home has been declining for years.

"Average incomes are rising modestly and consumer spending is falling because of a lack of confidence," he added.

All this negative publicity is despite Mintel research released earlier this month showing only one in five adults thought they would spend more in pubs when extended hours come in. And even among regular pub-goers only six per cent said they would drink more.

The research also found that due to extra staffing cost and other overheads, the novelty would quickly wear off for many pubs.

Nobody can be sure how people will react after the new laws come into effect. It's possible that people spurred by the novelty factor, people will go a little over the top for the first few weeks. But surely it won't take long before the late nights begin to take their toll - or certainly that was the impression pub-goers gave The Publican last week.

What do drinkers think?

  • "I share the end of my garden with a pub, so from that point of view I don't want it. We're going to be woken up at 2am in the morning!

"I may stay out a bit later myself, but not much. I am an early riser, usually getting up at seven every day. If I stay out later, I won't have enough sleep and, like everyone, I have got to go to work.

"It will have a novelty value, but it will pass."

Alistair Madams, 35, salesman, Brentwood

"The pub near me has been given a 2am licence, so I'm concerned about the noise. I don't think it will affect how much I drink. I will get equally drunk but just take it slower.

"London is a bad example though because it already has a kind of 24-hour culture. Look at somewhere like Nottingham where there's already a lot of trouble and they aren't used to 24-hour drinking. That's where there could be trouble."

Steven Appleyard, 35, energy salesman, Gloucestershire

"I won't stay out longer. I don't really go drinking in pubs at the weekend. I may go out for a meal with my family near where I live, but I won't stay there drinking.

"I don't think longer hours will make that much difference. Although I think it will give the police more of a headache in terms of resources."

Peter Andree, 50, engineer, Broxbourne

"I don't think I'll spend more money. I will probably come out later in the evening, but I won't drink until 2am.

"For most people with 9-5 jobs it won't make a difference, people still have to go to work.

"People tend to drink as quickly as possible now with 11pm closing times, but hopefully this will ease off with the new laws."

John Styles, 51, builder, London

"I won't stay out later because I'll still have to get the tube home.

"If the tube ran later then I would probably stay out later. It needs to be synchronised.

"It should stop people from binge-drinking and I'll take my time because there won't be any last orders. "I'm a Kiwi and the only thing that it will take away is the British tradition of last orders, which is wonderful. But overall I think it's a good idea."

Anna des Tombe, 31, marketing executive, Clapham

"I'll probably drink more and stay out longer when the laws change.

"Longer opening hours should suit the culture in the city. People work long hours and like to go to the pub to unwind, but drink quickly because they know they are going to be thrown out at 11pm. But I think it will take a long time for people to adapt."

Emma Dowding, 32, marketing executive, East London

"Staying out until 11 o'clock is fine for me Monday to Friday, but if the pubs are open later at the weekend I may stay later. I will probably come out later as well and spend more money, at least for the first few weeks.

"In the first few months people might take advantage of the longer hours but at the end of the day, people still have the same amount of money to spend. I'm more concerned about younger people, they can't handle their drink so well."

Bob Jones, 61, builder, London

Related topics Legislation

Property of the week


£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

Follow us

Pub Trade Guides

View more