- [I]t's last call for the early pub closing times that have shocked many a visitor to Britain since their introduction during World War I.
The government hopes the change, which takes effect at midnight (0000 GMT) Wednesday in England and Wales, will stop the flood of drunks onto city streets just after the traditional 11 p.m. closing time.
Britain's licensing laws -- largely unchanged since they were tightened in 1915 to keep factory workers sober -- have long been derided as an anachronism. They required most pubs to close at 11 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10:30 p.m. on Sundays.
The new rules allow pubs, bars, shops, restaurants and clubs to apply to open any hours they like, although each license must be approved by local authorities.
Supporters say the changes will end the scramble to guzzle as much booze as possible in the last minutes before closing time and so cut down on alcohol-fueled violence.
They hope the new law will nudge Britons toward a Continental culture of gentle tippling rather than relentless chugging.
There's also a lot of relentless chugging at college campuses here in the states. Many underage students get blitzed at $5 all-you-can-drink keggers, where the goal is to drink as much as possible as quickly as possible. Yet it's against the law for them to sip a pint at the local microbrewery.
- Thousands of pubs and bars have been granted later licenses under the new rules, although the vast majority have asked for an extra hour or two -- hardly the "24-hour drinking" endlessly repeated in headlines.