More than 80,000 pubs and bars of the United Kingdom applied for the extension of opening hours
No increase in a crime rate or the number of arrests of persons under the influence has been reported over the first weekend after the new law on alcohol sales came into force in England and Wales. The new law authorizes round-the-clock sale of alcoholic beverages. As by the previous rules, bars and outlets selling liquor were to open at 11.00 and close at 23.00.
“The new law is not meant to encourage drunkenness and lawbreaking,” said British Minister for Culture, Media and Sports Tessa Jowell. The opponents of the new law believe that the end of the uniform opening hours will result in a sharp increase of alcohol consumption.
The new law provides for a wider range of authority for the law enforcement agencies involved in operations against criminal activities due to irresponsible drinking. A special unit of plainclothes policemen will conduct sting operations in pubs and retail outlets. The policemen have been instructed to uncover pubs and shops that sell alcohol to underage or drunk customers. Pub owners who are found guilty of selling booze against the law will be fined 5,000 pounds and have their alcohol sales licenses suspended or revoked.
Young people drinking irresponsibly will face penalties too. They will have to pay a fine of 50 pounds. “The sale of alcohol to persons under 18 years old is not just an irresponsible action, it is a crime,” said a spokesperson for the Home Office. More than 40% of supermarkets, shops and pubs can sell booze to any customer. More than one thousand pubs and retail outlets in England and Wales have been already issued licenses that meet the new rules.
In the spring of this year around 70% of more than 80,000 pubs and bars of the United Kingdom applied for the extension of opening hours. Some pubs advocated an extension of one or two hours while others wanted to switch to 24-hours operations, the way alcohol is served in similar establishments in continental European countries.
The British government believes that longer opening hours will help avoid hooliganism and fights between 11 p.m. and midnight because the uniform closing times will no longer dump boisterous crowds on the street late at night. Meanwhile, according to the British Police Chiefs Association, there are no signs indicating that longer opening hours can curb hooliganism. The measure may have an opposite effect. Members of the association believe that “a continental style of drinking culture requires a continental style of behavior e.g. people at the restaurants sipping their drinks slowly well into the night.” The chiefs of the police point out that the British have been notorious for heavy drinking. British drinkers normally drink standing at bars in a noisy environment. They talk and shout, and they try to drink as much as they can, says the statement by the police chiefs association.