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.