Curmudgeon's "Opening Times" Column - November 2005

* Out of the Woodwork *

Licensing reform has brought Prohibitionists blinking out of their dark holes

IT'S DEPRESSING how the prospect of even a modest relaxation of licensing law has produced such a frenzy of blatantly anti-drink and anti-pub sentiment in the media. If organs like the ďDaily MailĒ are to be believed, letting pubs open an hour or two later will lead to town centres resembling the aftermath of the Battle of the Somme, and everyone drinking themselves into an early grave.

Now, it canít be denied that the abuse of alcohol does cause problems in society, but that has far more to do with the general culture of weekly bingeing as opposed to regular moderate consumption, than with the hours as such. Longer hours wonít give people any more money to spend, or any more evenings when they donít have to go to work next day. And these problems are occurring even with the present hours Ė there is nothing uniquely beneficial about closing at 11 pm.

When all-day opening was introduced in the 1980s, there were dire predictions that it would lead to the streets being full of drunks by seven in the evening, and in the early days many urban police forces had large numbers of officers on standby. However, it simply didnít happen, and in general the end of afternoon closing has led to a more civilised drinking atmosphere during the day. There is no inherent reason why closing a little later at night will not have the same result.

If you accept the argument that longer opening hours are inevitably going to lead to more alcohol being consumed, and more social problems, then the logical conclusion must be that to improve the situation we should be reducing hours. Surely things would be much better if all pubs and restaurants had to stop serving at 10 pm, or 9 pm. So you have to wonder why the anti-drink zealots donít openly campaign for that. Perhaps they realise that it would destroy all their credibility with the general public and expose their arguments as founded on nothing more than a mean-minded, killjoy spirit.

* Beyond the Pale *

Limp colour schemes reflect insipid pubs

A RECENT TREND in refurbishing pubs seems to be to paint the exterior woodwork in a very pale, wishy-washy green, which gives the impression that it is still waiting for a final coat. Personally I much prefer pubs to be done out in robust browns, blues, reds and golds, and I totally fail to see what the attraction of such an insipid colour scheme could be. I can only conclude the intention is to suggest that people who want to nibble lettuce leaves are more welcome than those who want to down pints of ale. Certainly my experience is that the interiors of these pubs can rarely be described as remotely cosy or welcoming to the casual drinker.

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