We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


I am in one of my favourite bars, in a railway arch in Peckham in South East London. Good music. Friendly staff and customers. Czech beer on tap. A quite decent Mendoza malbec. Fast and free Wifi (yes, I am hiding behind my laptop. Yes, I am a nerd. If you do not like that, well fuck you). The woman opposite me seems to be staring a little too excessively into the eyes of the man opposite me. Nice for them, no doubt (and yes, I may be bitter, although I am perfectly sincere when I say that this is nice for them and I wish them well).

However, a member of staff just came over, telling me that (sadly) the bar was closing soon (it is 10pm), and asking me to sign a petition, requesting that their licensing hours be increased, so that they can close at midnight rather than the present 10pm.

The story behind this is this. During the first world War, licensing hours in Britain were imposed, requiring bars to close at 11pm. Allowing people to go out drinking after this apparently hurt the war effort. In my native Australia, a 6pm closing hour was imposed at the same time, In some jurisdictions this lasted until the 1960s. But I digress. And this is now generally gone.

My friends from the Latin countries have always been shocked by the 11pm closing hours in England. Coming from countries where they would barely considering going out before midnight, they have always found this odd, to say the least. But the 11pm close was fairly standard, none the less.

However, three or four years ago, things in the UK changed. Responsibility for licensing bars had for a long time been the responsibility of magistrates. If an applicant could demonstrate that he was responsible, then a licence to open a bar would generally be given.

However, the law was changed, so that licensing became the responsibility of local councils – theoretically elected, but much easily bullied by national government than magistrates. Theoretically, this meant more flexibility with respect to licensing hours. At the time, this was sold as allowing bars to open later. In some parts of London, this is true. Generally, the louder and less pleasant places to be are the ones with the later opening hours.

On the other hand, I am in a bar at 10pm on a Monday night. This bar is full of perfectly nice people who are no trouble to anyone. And we are being thrown out onto the street at 10pm.


Update: As I was on my way out, I stopped and asked the landlord for more details as to the situation. Apparently he has a “facilities licence” allowing him to keep his bar open until midnight, but simultaneously, the council has invoked “planning laws” requiring him to close at 10pm on most nights. He pointed out to me what I knew already, which was that his bar occupies an arch underneath the main London Bridge to Brighton railway, on which (loud) trains run 24 hours a day. My experience is that I was visiting a pleasant bar containing a few perfectly nice people enjoying themselves. Heaven forbid that.

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20 comments to WTF?

  • Well, it is obviously the fault of those damned dirty Huns.

  • Kristopher


    To encourage public drunkenness out in the streets(Link), of course.

  • Nuke Gray

    All politicians like to be able to say they did something, so as to justify getting elected in the past, and re-elected in the future. If some neighbour complains about noisy bars, earn some goodwill by regulating them! the electors respond more to what you do, than to what you repeal. the public might vote for a party that promises less taxes and laws, but they want their politicians ‘to do something’ when unexpected things happen.

  • cjf

    Um, I’m really, really sorry. I did it.
    I’m in Ohio, the midwaste of the US 48.
    I complained about the noise from your bar.
    I didn’t know you went there.
    Sorry ’bout that.

    By the way, is there some method, some bureaucratic
    thing, I could do, to be “banned from Britain” as some kind of hate-monger?

    I’ve never been on many important lists; and, now that I’m old, I’d like to have some small sense of adventure,
    without, of course, having to really do the adventure thing.

    I’m sure the local authugories would be misinformed by
    your government, as they are otherwise. And, it would
    add a sense of importance to local snitches, spies and
    agents provocateur, who can use a warm-and-fuzzy.
    (They certainly don’t get it at home)

  • andyinsdca

    It only took the US 108 years to kill off a phone tax to pay for a 19th century war…

    So, just wait another 40 years or so…

  • I think it’s a plot. Politician A gets credit for closing bars and cutting down on noise after 11, then Politician B gets credit for clearing the drunks off the street by reopening the bars. If the politician is *really* clever, it might even be the same guy.

  • Mustapha Jihad

    Encourage adults to consume alcoholic beverage in a bar setting. Set an arbitrary closing, thus to encourage rapid consumption during the final 15 minutes. Throw out on to the street, inebriated, disenchanted drinkers, mostly young males. And here’s the clincher, all at the same time. Ensure that all other bars in the immediate area follow the same pattern. Then act surprised when incidents of violence and criminal damage spike.
    Suppose for one perverted moment that an increase in violence and criminal damage were the intention. The present arrangement could hardly be improved upon.

  • Eric

    And here I thought California’s 2 AM closing law was draconian.

  • “Fast and free Wifi. (Yes, I am hiding behind my laptop. Yes, I am a nerd. If you don’t like that, well fuck you). The woman opposite me seems to be staring a little too excessively into the eyes of the man opposite me. Nice for them, no doubt. (Yes, I may be bitter, although I am perfectly sincere when I say that this is nice for them and I wish them well).”

    Ha! Had you drunk one too many of those Czech beers before you wrote this Mr Jennings?! More of the same please, preferably mixed with your musings on the beauty of the strange inhabitants of the world of higher mathematics…

  • I was drinking the malbec, actually.

    Yes, though. I think I might have removed much of that paragraph if I had given myself a period of quiet reflection between writing and posting.

  • Andrew Duffin

    It’s just part of the war on pubs.

    Free, unsupervised, hard-to-monitor association between the non-privileged classes is not approved of by the state.

  • Mustapha Jihad is on to something.

  • Brian, follower of Deornoth

    “My experience is that I was visiting a pleasant bar containing a few perfectly nice people enjoying themselves.”

    But you were not enjoying yourselves in the approved manner, and must therefore be stopped.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    My developing rule of thumb is “When a law makes no sense, presume corruption and look to see who makes money from it.” In this case, it might be interesting to see which bars in the same bailiwick aren’t being forced to close early and which council members, or parties, they’re ‘contributing’ to.

  • Sigh – in my locality, Bexar County in the state of Texas, USA, there is an ordinance that forbids wine from being sold in supermarkets until noon on Sunday, and if memory serves, from buying sherry until then also – or maybe sherry can’t be bought on Sunday at all. I know that alcohol cannot be purchased on Sunday anywhere at all in New Mexico, the state just next door to us. Seriously, I don’t think this puts much of an obstacle at all, in the way of serious alkies in their quest for blotto oblivion on Sunday; for all I know, they stock up on Saturday night and no one is the wiser. I do know that this is a serious inconvenience to the absent-minded or forgetful who want to fix something that calls for sherry or wine for Sunday dinner and want to buy it before noon. I am quite sure that there are members of the State Lege who preened themselves no end on what they did to root out the scourge of alcoholism, next election season by having voted for that particularly pointless and easily evaded bit of law. It isn’t the practical effect of the law on the general public which is the question – it’s all about the way that the people who voted for it can pose, as they bask in the spotlight of public attention.

  • Sgt. Mom, there are similar local laws in many places in the US, as far as I can tell mostly in the South and the MW. I always thought that it has to do with some religious “consideration”, with it being a Sunday and all?

  • Paul Marks

    The new licensing laws (presented as “deregulation”) are indeed even worse (and much more complex) than the old ones.

    Endless training meetings at Kettering council for those members unluckly enough to be on the “Lincensing Committee” (no I am not one of them).

    Planning law is also a mess.

    It allows local councils to make the life of a private person (who, for example, want to covert a barn into a place where he can live with his family) into a total misery – we (both officers and members) can make that person’s life a misery, really tie them up into knots over a long period of time (and then turn them down anyway – with “material planning considerations” under the various headings).

    But if a major (and politically connected) company comes along with a mega development plan (one that relies on vast subsidies from the taxpayer for roads and so on) then there is little a council can do – and if it tries to stop a town being runied (and the taxpayer being ripped off) it is simply taken to a showtrial “appeal” and (after the automatic finding for the friend-of-Gordon-Brown-mega-company) is hit by vast legal bills.

    “But Paul if there were no planning laws there would be strip clubs next to churches” (as I was told in my youth).

    Leaving aside the “little” point that the Common Law forbad various bad things (such as cutting off of light and air via a development) long before the planning laws of the 1940’s – the one strip club in Kettering is, of course, next to a church.

    The planning laws can not stop such things – that is not what they are for.

  • “I might have removed much of that paragraph if I had given myself a period of quiet reflection between writing and posting.”

    Hmm, though it seems to me that…

    “I might have removed much of that paragraph if I had drunk a few of those Czech beers while meditating on the Riemann Hypothesis between writing and posting.”

    … was actually the correct answer. 😉

  • I’m an applied guy. It would have been more a case of thinking about complex systems of finite difference solutions to high Reynolds number limits of the Navier Stokes equations.

    But that’s just me.