Friday, 28 January 2011

The lessons of Prohibition

The Telegraph, it seems, has woken up to the notion of unlawful, unregulated venues at which free people can meet, converse, drink and smoke. Unlicenced, of course, uninspected by the Fire Officer, entry is strictly based on knowing someone, and is entirely contrary to every tenet of the Equalities Act. Drink is openly bought and consumed at all sort of unprescribed hours and cigarettes are smoked in contravention of the Health and Licensing Acts. Talk is also unregulated; not only would Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt become very confused, and not only are Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotsmen mentioned by name, there is frequently heard things that would breach the laws about inciting religious hatred. The Telegraph reports them as 'Speakeasies' and indeed it's not a bad term, though not one I've heard used in the one such place I know personally, which is known simply as the possessive form of the operator's Christian name. 

It's not just the London professional classes that are finding such places, but the usual lively crowd of native London wide-boys (and girls) and chancers, aspiring actresses and, I suspect, the odd copper. In the old days journalists would have been amongst the first to find and establish themselves in these places, but the dreary trade has changed beyond recognition; a journalist these days is a 24 year-old girl carrying a Skinny Latte and an iPad, utterly blind to anything that happens in front of her eyes, reliant wholly on Twitter. 

They seem to have been springing up since last year, and no doubt before long the more obvious and blatant will be raided and closed. For many who are law-abiding, this is their first dangerous taste of illegality - but even the prospect of a police raid doesn't seem too bad; where's the stigma? This is how the old Colony Room must have seemed when it started after the war as an afternoon drinking den, filling the compulsory 2.30 - 5.00 pub shut-down. 

I expect the lawmakers will catch up eventually, as they did with ending the afternoon shut-down. All the Commons business is essentially reactive of public opinion. Until then, let's enjoy them. 


Blue Eyes said...

This is the first I'd heard of this subculture. Why have I not been invited to one yet?

Anonymous said...

Blue Eyes said...
This is the first I'd heard of this subculture. Why have I not been invited to one yet?

Same here.

For a moment I thought you were alluding to people meeting up in their own homes for drinks, fags and the illicit practice of free speech.

The prospect of our Orwellian inspectors of the Department of drinks, fags and speech (DDFS), breaking down doors to arrest people and their friends at home, is no longer an absurd thought.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of drinks, fags and free speech, and the illicit practice of all three, GK Chesterton wrote about such an eventuality in England-

The Flying Inn.(Can be downloaded)

It came about as the political elite tried to install sharia in the UK by stealth. Prescient.

View from the Solent said...

Parhaps a new and lively form of music will develop in these venues :)

Curmudgeon said...

Is this article available online?

Ed P said...

As no money changes hands - people bring their own drink & tobacco - they are not breaking the law. Unless there are complaints from neighbours about noise (or not being invited!), it's just a private party in a private house and you can do as you bloody well like. But I expect the intrusive state will find a way to ban these gatherings - they hate freedom.

Ed P said...

PS: Drink & tobacco are NOT purchased on the premises - that's what makes these gatherings legal in private houses.

Anonymous said...

They could not close the speakeasies in the USA and they won't be able to close ours.

English Pensioner said...

I belong to a small group which used to meet once a week in the local. For various reasons (price of beer, loud "music" and a lack of seating) we now meet on a rota in each other's homes. The host organises sufficient cans of beer and maybe a couple of bottles of wine each week which is cheaper than a round at the pub and we have a different beer each week which adds to the variety. Membership is very much by invitation only!

Anonymous said...

Chester (and if you can find Chesterton, then bring him with you) every Friday night. My gaff.

Oh, just one rule:- you must bring your prejudices with you, I want to here them spoken freely.

Coney Island

Blue Eyes said...

"For a moment I thought you were alluding to people meeting up in their own homes for drinks, fags and the illicit practice of free speech."

Me too. A more "open" private house sounds like a lot of fun though. Wow, Londoners might actually meet new people.

Anonymous said...

Blue Eyes

I was fortunate to visit a Warsaw pact country before the whole apparatus of totalitarianism came crashing to the ground.

I found out that people did not discuss politics except with people they knew, and in their own homes where they could be sure there were no bugs.

I had to to undergo serious but non-intrusive examination before they opened up.

A similar situation pertains in the UK, where certain matters cannot even be mentioned in public without leading to dismissal.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

" their own homes where they could be sure there were no bugs..."

Not sure that was always the case in Warsaw Pact countries (have you seen "The Lives of Others"? It's not a fantasy).

Not sure it's true in this country either.

Remember the recent case in the US where school staff were using loaned laptops to spy on pupils in their own homes, without their knowledge? Those guys got caught, but who knows about the ones who don't get caught?

Anonymous said...

Weekend Yactsman

One can never be sure of anything. However, that was the situation I found when I visited CZ.