There have been several mentions in the Lynn News recently about the undesirability of 24 hour licensing hours, some stemming from the high profile resignation of a fellow columnist, some political point scoring in the run up to the election and some objecting to the proposed early morning opening of the planned Wetherspoons in Downham. This year sees the 10th anniversary of the introduction of this ‘bonfire of red tape’/’booze fuelled thuggish behaviour’ (delete as appropriate).
I will declare an interest. I like a pint. However I can only recall two occasions in my life when I have been tempted by a pint in the middle of the night. The first time was on the pavement outside Victoria Station in London in 1979, when two of us had a celebratory can of Newcastle Brown after purchasing tickets of the Laker Skytrain to New York from the office which opened at 4.00am. The second was when I served on a beer festival held in Digbeth Town Hall, where we were allowed to sleep overnight on site. Close by was the wholesale market, with a pub called the Mercat Cross which opened in the mornings to serve the market workers coming off the night shift. We went across for breakfast and had a half of Guinness, just because we could.
That is not to say that some do not like a drink at odd hours, but I don’t think the pub opening times have much of a bearing on their habits. True, Wetherspoons open at 8.00 in the morning but you are far more likely to see people in there having breakfast or coffee. Indeed with their offer of a large coffee for 99p with free refills up to 2pm, I think that the local cafes in Downham have as much to worry about as the pubs. Not that I am often up town by 8 in the morning, but I don’t hear many reports of drunks spilling out of the Globe or Lattice House disturbing people on their way to work. In fact 24 hour opening is a bit of a myth. You may find the odd place in the big cities, but not here in Lynn. When the measure was first introduced, I remember surveying a pub for the guide, and the landlord was very proud of his 24 hour licence until I asked him if he wanted it listed in our publication. The thought of potential customers knocking on the door in the middle of the night took some of the wind from his sails.
You can of course buy alcohol whenever you want, but this is easiest at our supermarkets. Most of the larger branches have 24 hour licences, but only for off sales. My encounters with drinkers at odd times are much more likely to be in the park than the pub. I remember several years ago walking past a park bench early one morning as the occupant declared loudly into his mobile phone that he was ‘just having a beer and a spliff in the park’. Other than the litter that is created, I can’t get too worked up about this type of activity, but if you are the type of person who is worried about drinking at all hours, would it not be more effective to aim your arrows at the supermarkets? Realistically, any change in the law is not going to eradicate late night drinking, but within the confines of a well- run pub it should be supervised. Passing a law does not create personal responsibility for behaviour, education is needed for that.