Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - June 2002

* Pubgoers 1, Killjoys 0 *

Early morning extensions for World Cup matches are unlikely to lead to drunken mayhem

Iím no great fan of football, but it was good news that the High Court decided to ignore the killjoys and grant pubs extensions for early-morning World Cup matches. As England only play in the World Cup finals every four years, if theyíre lucky, and this is the first time ever that the event has been held in a time zone which means that the matches are played in the early morning UK time, itís hard to argue that it doesnít qualify as a special occasion.

One Methodist churchman was reported as saying that fans should stay at home and watch the matches with their children rather than going to the pub, a comment that smacks more of Victorian temperance campaigns than of the realities of life in 21st-century Britain, when well over half of adults have no children under 18 living with them.

Whenever any extension of opening hours is proposed, these Dismal Jimmies forecast an orgy of drink-fuelled violence, yet it never happens. Dire consequences were predicted when pubs were allowed to open all day in the late 80s, yet overall itís led to a much more civilised drinking atmosphere. Itís instructive that the only time when drink-related trouble does occur on any kind of scale is the one time when the licensing laws require large numbers of drinkers to be abruptly turfed out onto the streets - eleven oíclock at night.

* Pubs and Parenting *

A free-for-all for kids in pubs would not be in children's best interests

Eyebrows were raised when Wetherspoon's announced that they were applying for children's certificates for virtually all their pubs, apparently a dramatic reversal of their previous policy of over-18s only. However, the reality was more modest - that accompanied children would be admitted to designated family dining areas, before 6 pm, when eating a meal.

That sounds perfectly reasonable, and nobody wants to go back to the days when children were expected to sit outside the pub in the car with a bottle of pop and a packet of crisps. Today, in most areas, and certainly around here, there's a wide choice of establishments that make an effort to attract families.

But this isn't good enough for some parents, who seem to want children to be admitted to all areas of all pubs at all times, and complain vociferously whenever they come across a pub that won't accommodate their requirements. Yet, unless they are eating a meal, or playing in a "fun factory", the pub is the last place children want their parents to take them. It is not being insensitive to the interests of children to suggest that tired, bored seven-year-olds really shouldn't be in a raucous, smoky boozer at ten o'clock at night just as mum and dad are getting stuck into their fifth round of the night.

Given the enormous amount of pub space nowadays where children are not only tolerated, but positively welcomed, surely it's not unreasonable to ask for a few old-fashioned urban locals to remain as adults-only zones.

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