It's all because of a blog post. One on Called to the Bar. This post to be precise. Doubtless you can guess when grabbed my attention. The rows and rows of beer books. Poor, sad bastard that I am, I pored over the photograph searching for volumes I didn't possess. One that caught my eye was "Beer is Best" by John Watney. A few seconds later I'd ordered a copy from Abebooks.
It's not the greatest book ever written about beer. And there are some pretty enormous factual errors (John thinks pub closing times were only introduced in WW I). But this passage about licensing hours is eerily prescient.
"With Britain in Europe, it would seem again as if the end of D.O.R.A. [Defence of the Realm Act that drastically cut pub opening hours in WW I] must now surely be in sight. European countries have never had licensing hours. Cafés, bistros, beer-kellers and ristorantes open and close when they like. It has always been possible, after a long mountain trek for instance, to stop at half-past three at a foreign inn and have a cooling draught of lager.
Continental habits are expected to be adopted increasingly in the British Isles, along with decimalization, metrication and the other systems in use in Europe. Surely tough old D.O.R.A. will not be able to hold out much longer? Or will she, in order to survive, adopt the nationalist mantle and declare that, despite the evidence of history, it is somehow British to have strictly regulated opening and closing hours? We shall see."
"Beer is Best" by John Watney, 1974, pages 50 - 51.
As it happens, D.O.R.A. is pretty much dead. Though his assertion that continental countries never had closing times is pretty wide of the mark.