How will the Irish cope if the boozing laws are loosened up?

In her weekly column Colette Sheridan asks how we will cope if licensing laws are amended to allow nightclubs stay open until 6am
How will the Irish cope if the boozing laws are loosened up?

Will Irish people stay out and party until dawn if the licencing laws allow? Picture: Stock, posed by models

SURELY, a lifetime habit of drinking against the clock would make the Irish poor contenders for more relaxed licensing laws, as has been mooted by the arts and tourism minister, Catherine Martin?

The whole goal of tanking up within a limited amount of time is what the Irish are used to. It has a sort of arc, whereby once the summit has been reached, there’s an attempt to keep it at that level (even though it’s all downhill after four or five pints/glasses of wine/spirits) with some rushed drinks before being turfed out on the street.

That’s when people either get sense and stagger home or sniff around for further boozing opportunities.

But if nightclubs are to stay open until 6am, will Paddy feel obliged to keep going until dawn?

What will that do for work culture (you know, showing up at your job at 9am) which seems to have been overlooked in this rush to be more modern and European?

Can the Irish be trusted if booze is on tap more or less 24 hours a day?

The Licensed Vintners Association has called for pubs to be allowed to serve people until 5am, seven days a week. It seems wrong. But then I’m speaking as a former drinker attuned to the cycle of what many call our outdated licensing laws.

I’m kind of glad that I won’t have to deal with the awful freedom involved in loosening up our drinking hours. I mean, the thought of holding up a counter in a dimly lit nightclub until almost breakfast time is exhausting.

With our propensity to keep going until the bitter end, chances are the Irish would keep going until an hour or two before ‘Morning Ireland’ starts. (I used to keep going at Leeson Street clubs at weekends when I lived in Dublin. A deep depression would set in at the realisation that on leaving the club, the birds were twittering, the hangover was setting in and I usually had barely enough cash left to pay for a taxi home having spent my money on Blue Nun after a rake of drinks in the pub. It was not very sophisticated.)

We’re always looking to our European neighbours when it comes to socialising, to see how they crack the alcohol issue. 

We are under the illusion that the French, for example, can nurse a glass of wine for ages. We also think that a la French parents, we should introduce alcohol to teenagers without fear. But behind the veneer of Gallic savoir-faire, the reality is that France has one of the highest alcohol consumption rates in Europe. Alcohol is the second greatest cause of preventable deaths in France, after tobacco.

France has a complicated relationship with alcohol. The first ever campaign to try to get the French to reduce their alcohol consumption was in the mid 1950s. The campaign encouraged the French to ‘drink less than a litre of alcohol per meal.’ Was that per person or per table?

Then, in 1956, France banned the serving of alcohol to children under the age of 14 - in the school canteens. Up until then, school children had the right to drink half a litre of wine, cider or beer with their meals. Can you imagine it? School kids dozing off after their semi-liquid lunch. It was only in 1981 that France introduced a total alcohol ban in the country’s schools.

The thing about young people in this country these days is that while they like their booze, they’re also body-conscious, working out in the gym. 

They know that a strong alcohol habit is the antithesis of being fit. Of course, being young means feeling invincible and no doubt, many of our young folk are burning the candle at both ends, pumping iron and drinking too much. They go for ‘prinks’ (pre-drinks in a pub) in each others’ houses, then they go to a bar that will serve them. After that, many of them congregate outside on the city streets. Would they be better off in a club until the early hours?

A friend, who lived in Berlin in the ’80s, says she came home to Ireland “almost in a coffin”. With no accommodation in the German capital, she worked in bars and stayed out all night in clubs and pubs and at parties. It was a crazy existence. When she came home, her bed was brought downstairs (because she was too emaciated to climb the stairs) and she was fed chicken broth by her concerned parents. As soon as she recovered, she bolted again. She is alive and well, despite feeling that she should be dead. She wasn’t quite in the Marianne Faithful league but like the singer, she survived wild times. Now, she goes to bed before 11pm. It’s called growing up.

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