The drink talking

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The Independent Online

The opponents of the Licensing Bill were absolutely certain about what would happen if it became law. More flexible pub opening times would, we were told, result in "24-hour binge-drinking". Our society would be submerged in alcoholism and drink-fuelled violence. To suggest that the British public could handle continental drinking customs without lapsing into Bacchanalian excess was to be dismissed as a stooge of the drinks industry or dangerously naive. Well who looks naive now?

The opponents of the Licensing Bill were absolutely certain about what would happen if it became law. More flexible pub opening times would, we were told, result in "24-hour binge-drinking". Our society would be submerged in alcoholism and drink-fuelled violence. To suggest that the British public could handle continental drinking customs without lapsing into Bacchanalian excess was to be dismissed as a stooge of the drinks industry or dangerously naive. Well who looks naive now?

Since February, pubs and clubs around the country have been able to apply for 24-hour licences. Yet - amazingly - only a small number of drinking establishments have done so. Eight have applied in Cardiff, six in Westminster and two in Bristol. Not a single request has come from Manchester, Liverpool or Birmingham. How can this be? Has Britain become an abstemious nation? Have publicans decided to put profit before principle?

Not likely. Perhaps the real reason those dark prophecies have not come to pass is that the opposition campaign was never anything more than a hysterical reaction to a sensible - and long overdue - piece of legislation.

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