Saturday, 27 August 2011

Closing Time

Limited opening hours. I learned to live with them, however annoying or inconvenient they were during my youth. It was only when I moved abroad that I realised their unseen hand had been manipulating my drinking habits.

Take my brother. Friday and Saturday evenings he goes into town. He gets in at about 20:00 and rushes around before catching the 22:45 bus home. I find it far too hurried. "Why don't you go out earlier?" He just doesn't.

The pull of closing time. The need to use up every last minute of drinking time. It caused me lots of trouble in my first years abroad. What do you do when the pubs don't close? You have to learn a new skill. It's called deciding when to leave. I'd had no need for it when I lived in Britain. The clock and the bell decided for me.

I'm not the first to have noticed the irrational behaviour of drinkers:

"Writing in the News Chronicle (2.6.39), Doris Langley Moore remarked:

Licensing regulations, like many other old-fashioned methods of dealing with potential evil, were framed under the simple illusion that you can prevent people from doing something they want to do by placing difficulties in their way. The most acute students of human nature have long been aware that, on the contrary, difficulty frequently acts as a first-rate incentive, and forbidden or partly forbidden fruit tastes far sweeter than that which drops into the hand. . . .

I believe that, if we were given the freedom permitted in this respect to Latins, Hungarians, Rumanians, Yugo-slavians, and almost all the other people's of Europe, there might be at first some slight excess, but in a very short time we should adjust ourselves to the idea of being treated as rational creatures, and would behave as such.

It is difficult to believe that in limiting the hours during which pubs are open you limit drunkenness, any more than forbidding abortion prevents some 90,000 working-class women aborting per annum. First, people do not go to pubs to get drunk. Second, their drinking is limited by their spending capacity. Thirdly, as our timings all show, they could easily get drunk in the available hours if they wanted to do so, by coming in earlier instead of during the later hours of open time. Fourthly, unlike the last century's drinking, nowadays a primary reason for pub-going is not the desire to escape from appalling home life. There may well be other reasons for limiting hours, e.g. in the interest of the publicans, though it is doubtful whether these interests are best served by the present system, including the fact that pubs are compelled to open all the available hours every day, which effectively prevents small-pub people from holidaying. A recent poll by the British Institute of Public Opinion gave a nearly equal number of people for and against extending licensing hours, but more than that in both of these groups put together wanted the hours left the same. Unfortunately the poll failed to differentiate between those who use the pubs and those who don't, and is thereby rendered relatively meaningless in so far as no qualitative weight can properly be attached to such quantities of opinion."
"The Pub and the People" by Mass Observation, 1943 (reprinted 1987), page 233.
There are still some morons in the shabbier end of the British press screaming for opening hours to be cut again.

Don't treat drinkers like children. Unless you want them to behave like children.

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