Pauper Travel

A blog dedicated to ultra-cheap travel. Based on my book "Travel Cheap-Travel Well!- Confessions Of A Travleing Pauper. You can learn how a Pauper travels like a King---all the time!

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sleepless in Soho - London - The 24 Hour Capital

London, England: half past eleven on a Saturday night. As midnight approaches, the alcohol soaked out-of-towners tumble from the doorstep of All Bar One, their awkward footsteps attempting to drag them to one of the all-night adventures London is famous for. But the reality is that these visitors will only see what the capital of cool will let them see.

Outside clubs like Tiger Tiger and Loop, a queue the size of a small battalion is forming as Leicester lads in crisp white shirts and Birmingham belles in hiked up skirts prepare to pay fifteen quid for the privilege of an extra two or three hours drinking, though most will spend an hour of that just getting in. Meanwhile, the London cognoscenti wallow in the late-night basements a world away from the tourist mayhem above them.

The well-informed have been enjoying late licences for a decade and for the girls and guys who afford London its style status, a late licence has become a requirement of their custom – that and a decent champagne list, a few Red Bull cocktails and a good, solid music policy. All the empty talk of 24-hour licensing has been completely lost on the capital’s socialites.

While the government has been debating for years whether to extend drinking laws, the entertainment hub of Europe has been laughing in the face of legislation and making its own laws. Across central London, over 60% of style bars have late licences, while the pub scene still suffers from the spine-chilling sound of the last-orders bell.

And it’s no longer just a Soho thing either. Slowly but surely, the blessing of post-midnight imbibing is spreading to the outer shores of London town. As regional councils see that late night drinking goes hand-in-hand with trendy sophistication and not laddish lager louts or professional pill-pushers, so the all-night empire grows.

For entertainment – big name DJs; for energy – a few cans of Red Bull; and for alcoholic inspiration, it’s creative cocktails that have put New York, Paris and Milan to shame. Today every residential district has its legal late-night drinking dens and the paddy pub lock-in has been resigned to the annals of history. As has that desperate attempt to get in two pints at a quarter to eleven and get them down you by quarter past. For those in the know, drinking-up time thankfully no longer exists in the dictionary of London life.


This world of after-hours entertainment is still open only to the few who know where to look, many of them hidden down alleyways, discreetly labelled and quietly coveting a door policy that excludes the small town pub brigade, the tacky tourists and styleless stag do’s – even if they do stumble upon the entrance. In Europe, they’ve been doing it for years.

From Barcelona to Berlin, going out before nine is a total faux pas. Bars don’t get going before ten and keep going till the last customers see fit to leave. Energy drinks are a functional requirement to see the night through and all of this on your average Wednesday night. In London, late night lubrication is still a privileged pastime enjoyed by those who make a point of knowing what’s what and in a city that’s changing by the second, knowledge is a full time occupation.

Jeremy Mascarenhas has been editorial director of the seminal London Bar Guide magazine http://www.londonbarguide.com for 10 years. He is also global editor of The World Bar Guide, http://www.worldbarguide.com, publisher of The Big Directory (a bar industry bible) and a freelance drinks marketing consultant. He has worked with most of the leading drinks groups including Red Bull, Moët Hennessy, Diageo, Brown Foreman, Budweiser, Asahi, Tiger Beer and Grand Marnier. Through his publishing company Scene It, as well as the London Bar Guide, he has published guides to Sherry, UK nightlife, cocktails, Japanese restaurants, the much lauded London Restaurant Guide and much more besides.

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