Calling time on the Booze Britain culture?


Current Alcohol licensing laws of the United Kingdom were designed to regulate the sale and consumption of alcohol however; there is a plethora of widely available evidence which suggest these laws are actually failing us…

As in many other areas of the nation, a Teesside town is now considering calling time on late-night drinking. These plans are being made as a direct result of public and police concerns about alcohol-related crime (see here).

An Early Morning Restriction Order (EMRO) could be in force by August following talks with Cleveland Police…(

But Hartlepool is not alone. Similar processes are being implemented across the land, a fact which makes it increasingly clear; our society wasn’t ready for the 24/7 ‘cafe culture’ idea. An ideal and proposal which I originally supported and one which was largely created by our current licensing laws, in particular the Licensing Act 2003.

In August last year Nightclubs in Norwich voluntarily agreed to call time on sales of alcohol in the early hours in a bid to cut crime and anti-social behaviour (see here). In a step aimed at a further reduction of the problems, Norwich council’s licensing committee have now approved plans to cut ‘permitted hours’ at premises in the area (see here).

Elsewhere in the UK, clubs and pubs in Northampton could be banned from selling alcohol between midnight and 06:00 (see here) and within the Thames Valley, a scheme to limit the sale of super strength lager could be coming to town centres in the area soon (see here).

It’s a sad state of affairs that our society wasn’t mature enough to make sensible use of a much-needed relaxation to the previous archaic licensing laws. Many have but not without negative impacts upon their health, our public services and our society as a whole.

With this lengthening night-time economy and the associated anti-social issues that go with often excessive drinking later into the night something had to give. The cost of policing and clear up operations alone have become a necessary but undesirable burden upon the ever-decreasing public purse.

This is why many authorities across the land have now been forced into utilising early morning alcohol restriction orders (EMROs) made under The Licensing Act 2003 (Early Morning Alcohol Restriction Orders) Regulations 2012.

Irrespective of any previously licensed ‘permitted hours’ under the act, an EMRO can enforce a temporary or permanent change to those hours. It can apply to any period on each day beginning at or after 12am and ending at or before 6am.  It does not have to apply on every day and can apply for different time periods on different days.

An EMRO can apply to the whole or any part of the licensing authority’s area.  The EMRO will apply to premises licences, club premises certificates and temporary event notices in relation to premises situated in the specified area. As previously mentioned, an EMRO can apply for a limited or unlimited period of time.  For example, an EMRO may
apply for a few weeks in relation to a specific event or apply for an indefinite period.

These controversial regulations, allowing EMROs (and an additional late-night levy) came into force in October 2012 however; some elements of the licensed trade have concerns regarding their application (see here). Many in the trade are concerned about the impact upon their livelihoods but I would ask; why worry if you operate your business and premises correctly? The sale of alcohol is not just a money-making opportunity, it also holds moral obligations to the community and our society.

The Government claim these measures will help pay the nation’s estimated £11bn a year bill for alcohol-related crime and disorder. The Home Office have suggested that around £17M per annum will be realised in England and Wales, a drop in the alcohol ocean perhaps but I suppose every little helps?

At this point in my observations I resemble Jake the Peg, as I actually have a foot in all three main camps of the arguments associated to this issue. As a drinker myself, I appreciated the relaxed opportunity created by the ‘cafe culture’ idea and subsequent legislation. I seldom used those ‘opportunities’ but they were there if I wanted to. Being employed to serve alcohol to those who drink, I understand some of the trade concerns although I don’t agree with many of them.

Finally, having spent all my adult life in and around pubs, thirty years of which was spent dealing with the after effects of excessive drinking, associated antisocial behaviour and public disorder, I can confirm these problems are more widespread now than ever before, especially (but not exclusively) amongst the young.

The licensed trade must shoulder its share of responsibility in trying to reverse these trends however; it does appear that the more traditional community pubs are being tarnished by the alcohol retail methods of supermarkets, along with the larger pub-chain premises and nightclubs. Usually there is a distinct difference. It appears that many see the Swiss idea to nip a similar problem in the bud as a step too far?

A growing trend among Swiss towns and villages to introduce curfews for the under-16s is causing anger and frustration among the country’s teenagers…(

Sadly, if the only way to curtail many of the alcohol related problems we see today is the EMRO then so be it. The downsizing of public sector services, particularly within enforcement and health, coupled with an emptying public purse means; we simply can’t allow the cost of clearing up this mess to continue any longer!

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