The Evening Standard's Vanishing Booze Vote

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 24 November 2005

For a long time one of the things that has really bugged me about living in London is England's archaic licensing laws, that mean that after watching a film on a Sunday night the missus and I can't retire to the pub next door to discuss the finer details of the plot over a pint, in case we are too hung-over to work in the munitions factory the next day. In fact I'd go as far as to say it was a factor in my decision to head to live somewhere, in fact, anywhere, with a more liberal approach to licensing. Thus making it rather ironic that the law has been changed mere weeks before I leave the country.

I must say I feel sorry for cub reporters up and down the country tonight who will no doubt be sent out by red-top and broadsheet alike, hoping to catch pictures of civilisation as we know it crumbling all around us in a booze-fuelled haze, although I note today that the Daily Mail has decided to take a short-cut and publish a front-page full of library pictures of drunken rampaging youths rather than wait for the whole she-bang to actually start properly this evening.

The Evening Standard has devoted a lot of coverage to the impact on London, particularly in the centre of town. Yesterday's edition had a twelve page pull-out listing all the places you get late night drinks in the capital. Actually, it wasn't that comprehensive, as several boroughs (including Waltham Forest) were unable to supply any data to the Standard, so it only covered about 19 boroughs. In fairness to the pull-out though it balanced the euphoria of listing these newly liberalised establishments with a helpful guide to how to make a complaint about licensed permises near you.

In a two-page spread on the law change, also in yesterday's Standard, they managed to come up with some mind-mangling facts:

London will have up to 7,500 extra drinking hours on Friday and Saturday nights with the ending of the traditional 11pm closing time. That is equivalent to an additional 10 months of drinking time

Eh? That is equivalent to an additional 10 months of drinking time? What, each? How do I claim this extra ten months, has this new law magically unlocked some hitherto unknown time-shifting properties? Oh I see, I have to be at every open venue in London simultaneously...

They also cited a BBC vote in the same article.

The findings come as a BBC poll revealed that at least 56,000 licensed outlets across England and Wales have applied to sell alcohol later.

What was really odd was that they didn't cite their own vote on the topic. In Tuesday's paper on page 5 the Standard had an article "Licence chaos looms with 2 days to go". Underneath it was the invitation to participate in a text message vote.

HAVE YOUR SAY IN THE DEBATE OVER 24-HOUR DRINKING

What is your opinion of the shake-up in the drinking laws? Let us know by answering the three questions below. Your response will be reported in tomorrow's Evening Standard.
Evening Standard invites readers to participate in an SMS vote

Well I couldn't find the results reported, in any of the six stories about alcohol in Wednesday's paper, or in the editorial comment about the law change, or in the 12 page Open All Hours pull-out. I guess they'll maybe be publishing them today instead.

After all, they couldn't have just trousered the SMS money and then not bothered to publish their findings, could they?

Keep up to date on my new blog