|Open all hours - coming soon?
Cheap alcohol is leading to an increase
in binge drinking and drunkenness in the South West. Inside
Out asks whether plans to extend pub drinking hours will escalate
the problem further.
We're a nation of drinkers, renowned for our capacity
to consume large amounts of alcohol.
But for some South West cities like Plymouth, the demon
drink is becoming a growing problem, and some critics argue that it is
about to get much worse.
Changes in Britain's drink laws will enable bars to open all hours when
current proposals take effect next year.
Inside Out investigates how the new drinking culture
is affecting drinkers and the night life in our towns.
Drink, drink, drink...
At present a big night out on the town ends when bar
staff in pubs and clubs call last orders at either 11pm or 2am.
24 hour economy? Pubs could be open all hours from 2005
But the old tradition of "drinking up time"
could be a thing of the past when the Government introduces new licensing
laws in 2005 enabling bars to open all day, if they wish.
For the drinkers this might seem like heaven, involving
all day drinking, endless happy hours, and no late rush for last orders!
But for the police and residents living near pubs, it
could spell problems, fuelled by the recent growth in pubs offering cheap
Cheap drinks revolution
We all like
a couple of pints but when two drinks turn into twelve, it's time to ask
if the cheap drinks revolution has gone too far.
It's now common for bars to offer cheap happy hour drinks,
two drinks for the price of one, and trebles for doubles.
drinking - the new way of getting drunk fast
Episodes of disorder and anti-social behaviour are often
seen as part of the excitement of getting drunk by binge drinkers enjoying
a night out.
Ken Locke is the owner of Jesters fun pub in Plymouth,
and he believes that drinkers are getting drunker quicker than they ever
For £20 a drinker can probably get fourteen drinks
whereas five years ago, it would have been four or five.
He's concerned that an extension of drinking hours will
mean that drunks will arrive at his pub at 11pm, causing trouble.
"The problem with it is cheap booze. To put it bluntly,
there's too many establishments chasing too small a market".
Your good health?
Binge drinking is also taking its toll on our health.
It's particularly dangerous because it involves
the consumption of large amounts of alcohol in a single session.
Side effects can include increased risk of liver disease,
cancer, heart disease, liver damage, strokes, and pancreatitis.
The recommended weekly limit is a maximum of 14 units
of alcohol for women, and 21 for men.
"Speed drinking bars", group drinking and the
popularity of shooters and shots have all added to the speed with which
drinkers get drunk.
To exacerbate the problem, modern alcohol products and
their marketing are designed to encourage and exploit the hedonistic binge
It shows on the streets - there are 13,000 drunken scraps
outside bars each week in this country.
Supporters of all day opening times argue that the binge
drinking culture of the English can be changed if we become more continental.
|Drinking Fact File
* 13,000 violent incidents take place in and
around bars and pubs each week in this country.
* 88% of criminal damage is caused by alcohol.
* 150,000 people are hospitalised due to alcohol.
* The cost of alcohol related crime is £7.3
billion a year.
* Tax revenue from alcohol amounts to £9
billion every year.
* The British Crime Survey shows that 47 per cent of violent crimes
are committed under the influence of alcohol.
By spreading out the drinking day, drinkers will be less
inclined to cram in as many drinks as possible into just a few hours.
Supporters of the new licensing bill argue that it will
curb binge drinking, create a more family-friendly drinking culture, and
give police greater powers to combat disorder around bars.
But are we ready for a culture shock and a change in
our drinking patterns?
Binge drinking accounts for a higher proportion of drinking
trips in the UK than in any other European country.
Young people in Britain are the heaviest drinkers in
Europe, and they're more likely to get drunk compared with their European
Drink, drink and drink...
In France and Spain people tend to drink for pleasure
and are less inclined to binge out.
English drinking culture is much more characteristic
of Northern Europe, with its high levels of violence and social problems
associated with binge drinking.
The Government hopes to create a more "civilised"
culture in pubs and clubs. But critics claim that there is no convincing
evidence that extended opening hours will reduce binge drinking.
They claim that young people will continue to get drunk
late into the night, exacerbating crime and disorder problems.
Policing the problem
John Stalker, former Deputy Chief Constable of Greater
Manchester, says that we aren't ready to make the leap to "continental"
drinking culture yet.
on the town - police prepare for rowdy drinkers
He visited 21 cities, including Plymouth, and found that
all were plagued with drunken behaviour.
Police in many areas told him that they were not encouraged
to arrest people because of the administrative expense.
Stalker says that police seemed
too tolerant of bad behaviour and didnt step in before trouble started
- unlike in his day.
He says that the streets are now controlled more by the
door men, rather than the police.
Devon and Cornwall Police acknowledge that their job
would be harder without the door men, but say that
one of their priorities is cracking down on drunken crime.
Violence in the upmarket, regenerated Barbican area of
Plymouth is growing fastest. It has risen by 25 per cent in six months.
The Police are keen to stamp it out. Fifteen to twenty
officers are put on duty to deal with city centre violence each weekend.
Open all hours?
So what can be done to tackle the problem
of binge drinking in our towns?
The new licensing legislation is a huge
gamble for the Government.
It will be hard to turn back the clock
if it doesn't deliver a reduction in disorder and drunkenness.
A recent Home Offices study goes further,
and suggests an array of measures which could help reduce drunken behaviour
- No happy hours and cheap drinks promotions
Refusal of alcohol to already intoxicated
- Pubwatch schemes and the use of CCTV cameras.
- Staggered closing times and heavier penalties
for the breach of licensing laws.
- Alcohol education schemes.
- Well-designed bars with well trained door
staff and restrictions on overcrowding.
It will take a long time to determine whether
the new laws help to reduce binge drinking and change our old-fashioned
John Stalker believes that we need a cultural
change before we can call time on heavy drinking in the South West's towns
"I'm for 24 hour drinking if society
is ready for it... Perhaps there should be a cultural change," says
In his opinion we're still a long way behind the good intentions of social