Bingeing Britain

By Jemma Tipping

Streets covered in vomit. Violence spiralling out of control. A nation of drunken hooligans. Critics say that 24-hour licensing laws in Britain will result in chaos. Pubs and clubs are now able to stay open round the clock. Some commentators believe the effect this will have on British society is likely to be huge.

New licensing laws have been introduced, according to the Government; to reduce crime and disorder, encourage tourism and to reduce alcohol misuse. Opponents say that allowing people to drink day and night will have the opposite effect on those in society prepared to push the new liberalisation of British drinking culture to the limits. Teresa Fowler, an assistant manager in a bar in Reading is not happy about her new hours. She believes that: “The pub will be full of customers who have been drinking all night meaning there is a bad atmosphere.”

Binges on alcohol leading to drunken violence and anti-social behaviour have become second nature to a society of boozers. Making alcohol freely available at anytime of the day will mean there is no visible end to a night out on the tiles, literally face down on the tiles in many cases.

Pub and club workers are worried about the effect this new legislation will have on their work environment. Fowler is cautious about the volatile situations which will arise during her shifts. She believes that there will be: “more trouble as people have longer to drink, the majority of people go over the top anyway and I will have to throw even more people out for being too drunk.”

Her concern is centred around the “novelty value this will have, it will be like being on holiday and we all know Brits’ reputations when they are on holiday.” Fowler envisages night after night of dealing with fights and arguing with drunken customers, will this be the situation for pubs and clubs nationwide?

Alongside 24 hour licensing the police are cracking down on troublemakers, handing out £80 fines for any drunk and disorderly behaviour. Longer licensing will, especially at first, encourage bingers to drink more for longer periods of time meaning it is more likely they will receive a fine.

If the government is allowing heavier drinking more people will be punished for their rowdy behaviour during drunken wandering in the vague direction of home after more than a skin-full of beer. Fowler remarks that: “More people will be drunker than before so there will be less risk of getting caught and fined. People are willing to take the risk anyway to have a good night.”

The police are running a national advertising campaign warning of the punishment people will receive for stepping out of line. Acting Assistant Chief Constable, Katherine Govier said: “We want to send out a clear message to people to go out and enjoy their leisure time, but to do it safely. If you are drunk and disorderly you can expect an £80 fixed penalty notice and if you are violent you will be arrested.”

This drive by the police is an attempt to stop a problem which is already out of hand. Fowler comments “the police can barely handle the fighting in Reading at the moment. The problem is being increased so the police will struggle.” No connection has been made between the new licensing laws and the crackdown on trouble makers but critics say the escalation of drinking which will result will mean arrests and fines will also increase.

Concerns over whether the government’s aims will be met are common. Geethika Jayatilaka, director of policy for Alcohol Concern stated that: "The government seriously needs to re-consider how the new licensing provisions will impact their strategy to resolve the multiple problems caused by excess drinking in Britain today." He also believes that the pressure on emergency services will be increased and they will have to deal with the problems of a bad decision by the government. On paper the plans look effective to solve Britain’s problems of violence and disorder due to heavy drinking, however the reality is much more sobering.

Dubbed the ‘alcoholic big bang’ by critics the effects of the new licensing is yet to be seen. Fowler predicts “the situation will get worse before it will get better.” If this is to be the case expect empty kebab wrappers on your doorstep as you crawl to work hung-over. Or you could be staggering to work still drunk after leaving the pub at 6am, with hangovers a memory from the past and your life constant ‘hair of the dog’.

Now time has been called on last orders the country is bracing itself for an outbreak of disturbances and rampages. Jayatilaka is fearful and warns that: "Given the prevailing drinking culture in Britain, extended licensing hours are more likely to turn our town centres into Faliraki rather than Florence.”

1 Response to "Bingeing Britain"

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contribs editor

Sat, 01/28/2006 - 18:23
Weeks after 24- hour drinking was allowed in Britain, charity Turning Point have compiled a report, based on Department of Health figures, which claims that one in every four adults has a drink problem. They found that more than 150,000 people are admitted to hospital every year because of alcohol related problems and 22,000 die.<br /> Lord Victor Adebowale chief executive of Turning Point said &ldquo; alcohol is a killer and a social ill on the par with many illegal drugs. Teenagers should be educated in binge-drinking as many grow up not knowing what a normal drink is&rdquo;. The organisation want the Government to spend more on treating and preventing alcoholism. At present, &pound;95million a year is spent on helping alcoholics to stop drinking compared with &pound;500million a year which is used to assist drug addicts cure their dependency.