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What Are Millennials Ruining Now? #2: 24-Hour Alcohol Licences

The UK nightlife crisis is apparently actually down to the rise of "dating apps" and "Netflix", not rent hikes and property developers.
Emma Garland
London, GB
Photo: VICE 

What Are Millennials Ruining Now? 24-hour alcohol licences.

Says Who? A commercial law firm called EMW, whose company tagline is "We do all sorts of legal stuff, as you'd expect…"

What Are They Saying? To the surprise of no one who's attempted to go out in London without paying £16 to get into Corsica Studios, the number of pubs, bars and nightclubs granted 24-hour licences to serve alcohol in the UK has fallen by a fifth over the past year. To the surprise of anyone who has ever congregated outside a venue at 2AM waiting for someone to offer their kitchen as a next destination, the reason for this is apparently "dating apps" and "Netflix".


In what I'm assuming was one of those press releases sent around to journalists so they can publish strange sidebar stories about how "11 percent of Brits fantasise about having sex with a traffic warden", EMW's legal director, Marco Mauro, made the following statements:

"Twenty-four-hour alcohol licences were expected to boost the night-time economy but this has simply not happened.

"Continued cultural changes in the way people interact and socialise, such as through dating apps, and the rise of Netflix, has created less demand for pubs, bars and nightclubs.

"Increasingly, many individuals are also now not going out until much later in the evening and, as a result, they can often spend less on drinks at the pubs.

"For most venues the potential extra revenue from staying open 24 hours is still not enough to make those businesses sustainable operations, resulting in many pubs and bars having to close their doors.

"Also, the expensive requirement for door supervisors in some local authorities has acted as a significant burden for some businesses.”

Millennials aren't blamed by name, but it’s a given that whenever "going on the internet" is mentioned in conjunction with spending habits, what’s really being said is "young people are boring and that’s why we can’t have nice things like a thriving night-time economy and Patisserie Valerie".

British nightlife is far from dead. If there's one thing Brits can be counted on for, it's finding new and inventive way to get wrecked. Still, there is a nightlife crisis in the UK, and as things stand it's doomed to repeat itself until venues start being priced out of Margate and everyone under 35 has to move to Lisbon. But this has nothing do with apps. The list of music venues forced to close over the last decade is only getting longer, and the same goes for clubs. According to The Campaign For Real Ale, a pub closes every 12 hours, with 854 pubs shutting in England, Scotland and Wales since the beginning of 2018, and 980 closures in 2017 alone. While it’s true that cultural shifts have occurred, they don't exist in a vacuum.


Here, off the top of my head, is one equation that might explain why we are suffering a shortage of 24-hour licences:


Continued cultural changes in the way people interact and socialise, such as through dating apps, and the rise of Netflix, has created less demand for pubs, bars and nightclubs.”

The argument here is: people go out to pull, and we don’t need to do that now you can use Tinder to order someone directly to your bedroom to binge-watch Russian Doll and eat your ass. While this is certainly true, the report and subsequent news story in The Telegraph use this to explain the demise of pubs – which is really more to do with a hybrid of rent hikes and the "Challenge 21" and "Challenge 25" schemes, launched by Wetherspoons in 2005 and then rolled out to pubs and supermarkets more broadly in an effort to curb underage drinking.

How Gentrification Can Wipe Out a Thriving Nightlife Scene

The time of deploying your friend with the most facial hair to the Co-Op for a bottle of Glen's is very much over. This is by no means a bad thing, but for all our glorification of binge-drinking, Britain seems allergic to admitting that until recently it was completely unremarkable for 15-year-olds to be seen getting battered in the pub every weekend.

Our shift away from that culture has arrived in tandem with Tory cuts, which have forced councils to sell off vast swathes of public spaces used for less nefarious activities, so it shouldn’t be at all surprising that young people socialise differently when the internet offers a sense of community otherwise unavailable to them. Of course, this isn't to say that young people no longer drink at all, but the concept of "the pub" as a social hub is predicated on a now dying idea that you could rely on most of your friends to be in one of three boozers every weekend.


Could the issue possibly be that … there are less physical spaces for young people now and so they turn to others because they have to?


"Twenty-four-hour alcohol licences were expected to boost the night-time economy but this has simply not happened.”

The above is not true of everywhere. Yes, Hackney Council has no qualms about passing restrictions that mean all new pubs, clubs and bars have to shut by 11PM on a weekday, despite opposition from 75 percent of its local residents, but that's a council decision, not one on the part of punters. Also, in cities whose nightlife centres on a network of high streets, there will be at least three clubs guaranteed to have a themed night on until 3AM on a Wednesday.

There's a strange trend of blaming social media – and, by extension, the lifestyle "choices" of young people – for killing off nightlife, when what's actually happened is that the government and local authorities have allowed an absolutely astonishing number of pubs, clubs and venues to be sold off, priced out or strangled to death by property developers and the people who knowingly move in above a venue that’s been open for three decades, and then complain when they are shocked to discover it is loud.

It doesn't seem as though EMW has factored in the possibility that people have resigned themselves to staying in more because there's nowhere to go in the first place.


Photo: VICE


Increasingly, many individuals are also now not going out until much later in the evening and, as a result, they can often spend less on drinks at the pubs.”

Nine years into an economically flawed concept and people continue to be frugal with their disposable income, yes.


Off licences continue to stay open 24 hours for a reason. There are many, many price-inflated booze-delivery services available on Deliveroo and UberEats for a reason. The British love getting rat arsed, mate – love it! More than life itself! But there are evil forces at work against us. I spent two hours pinging around north London in cabs this very weekend trying to find somewhere to have a simple pint, and ended up just going home. I lived in Bath for three years, whose city centre has such firm noise restriction laws all the clubs are underground, and never had so much trouble.

North London is a particularly accelerated vision of what happens when greed collapses a city and the only places active at 4AM are strip clubs, casinos, a handful of legacy venues and a 24-hour tube that mainly shuttles minimum wage workers in and out of the centre. The way people interact and socialise is changing, but anyone who thinks "dating apps" and "Netflix" are the cause of our society’s terminal isolation and not the result of decades of cultural demolition can’t possibly be going out enough to comment.