Britain set to loosen pub hours

11 p.m. fixed closing time linked to binge drinking

Apr 10, 2000 - Britain appears ready to make the most sweeping changes in the hours pubs may remain open since opening hours were imposed at the outset of World War I. Then measures were taken to prevent factory workers getting drunk instead of furthering the war effort.


The Labor government is proposing much laxer licensing laws as well as measures to tackle under-age drinking and antisocial drunks.

"In many ways, the law as it stands makes more difficult the problems and policing of public order," Home Secretary (interior minister) Jack Straw told parliament while unveiling the new policy paper. "Fixed closing times may encourage binge drinking around last orders, with people hitting the streets -- and sometimes each other -- at the same time."

Currently, pubs not serving food have to kick out their clientele at 11 p.m.

"It is becoming much more difficult to differentiate between a pub, a cafe, a wine bar or a restaurant," Straw said. "Flexible opening hours may be introduced with the potential for some venues, and I emphasize some venues, to operate up to 24-hour opening, seven days a week."

The new laws will give police tough new powers to be able to close premises which have become a focus for alcohol-related violence and disorder and locals will be consulted in advance. The minimum age for drinking in licensed premises will remain at 18 but 16- and 17-year olds will able to drink beer or wine with a meal, he said.

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