Pubs call time on last orders

WWI-era licensing laws relaxed as of today

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After months of debate, the UK’s new licensing laws have come into force allowing thousands of pubs, clubs, restaurants and shops to sell alcohol past 11pm.

The regulations went live at midnight and according to government figures around 40% of the 190,000 licensed premises in England and Wales have been granted their request to extended opening hours.

Some 1,008 businesses – less than 1% of the total – are now allowed to serve alcohol 24-hours a day, a third of which are supermarkets, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said. Another third are pubs, bars and nightclubs.

Fending off criticism that the regulations would lead to an increase in alcohol-fuelled disorder, Culture secretary Tessa Jowell claimed the new laws give responsible adults ‘more freedom’.

“The vast majority of adults drink alcohol. Most people live within walking distance of a pub or bar. Alcohol is part of our national life,” she said.

“That’s why these new laws are so important. For too long we have allowed a small minority to rule the streets at night and our main recourse has been a national curfew. This was unfair in principle and wrong in practice.”

As well as giving licensees the option to stay open longer, the legislation also grants police greater powers to crackdown on anti-social behaviour.

“We believe that the Licensing Act will help to reduce alcohol fuelled disorder by providing the police with new tough powers to close down problem bars and increase penalties for premises that sell to underage drinkers,” said home secretary Charles Clarke.

Police forces reported little problems in the first few hours after hours were extended but authorities have warned that activities this weekend will test the new law.

Jan Berry, chairman of the Police Federation, said while the majority of drinkers would continue to behave sensibly, the actions of a minority are likely to result in an increase in alcohol-related misbehaviour.

She admitted this would put a strain on ‘already stretched resources’.

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