Research into the effects of liberalising liquor licensing

Issue date: 16 August 2005

Issue date: 16/08/05

Researchers at the University of the West of England, Bristol have produced a review of the recent experience of other countries that have liberalised the opening hours of public bars. This exercise was carried out by Martin Plant, Professor of Addiction Studies, working with his daughter, Emma.

This review is due to be published soon in the prestigious International Journal of Drug Policy. (The link to Science Direct and the Articles in Press section is:

Due to the topical nature of this subject, the full text of this paper is now released. It is available now as a pdf file from

Abstract of Review

A “leap in the dark?” Lessons for the United Kingdom from past extensions of bar opening hours.


Alcohol & Health Research Trust, Centre for Public Health Research, University of the West of England, Glenside Campus, Blackberry Hill, Bristol BS16 1DD, UK.

The Licensing Act of 2003 for England and Wales paves the way for 24-hour opening of licensed premises. Senior members of the United Kingdom Government have claimed that the pressure of rigid closing times contributes to the rising problem of binge-drinking and associated harm in the UK. Removing set opening times it is hoped will reduce these problems. These plans have been widely criticised. Moreover, international evidence suggests this may not be the case. Studies from Europe, Iceland, Australia and North America have indicated that extending trading hours may not only fail to reduce alcohol-related problems but might increase them. Evidence exists of licensing liberalisation being followed by rises in alcohol consumption, violent crime, traffic accidents, illicit drug use as well as extra public health and tourism costs.

Professor Martin Plant has commented: “We are already faced with serious and escalating health and social problems caused by heavy drinking. On the basis of available evidence, the proposal to extend liquor licensing in England and Wales, threatens to make these problems even worse.”

Professor Plant can be contacted at: 0117 328 8852 or 07711 318 298, e-mail:


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