May 25, 2001 -- Pub closing time has never been a pretty sight in Britain, as patrons tore themselves from their cherished bar stools, wobbled out into the night and got into rowdy slang matches, drunken brawls and occasionally, a sobering trip to the police station.
But in the central English city of Leicester, clubbers may soon find themselves strolling out of the pubs, licking a fruity lollipop while humming a benign childhood tune —if the local police succeed in a novel crowd-control venture.
Four Leicester nightclubs have been asked to end their evenings with the jukebox playing favorite childhood tunes while offering clubbers a free round of lollipops.
No, it's not a scheme to make suckers out of drunkards, just a brainwave by Inspector Daimon Tilley to keep the streets of Leicester calm after 11 p.m.
Suck and Fight at the Same Time?
In a four-week trial of the new scheme, the police have paid for 13,000 lollipops to be handed out at closing time on the premise that it's hard to suck and fight at the same time.
It's also harder to pick a fight with Judy Garland's Yellow Brick Road, ringing in your mind. Harder by far, than if you stepped out into the night air with "gangsta rap" riff pounding your well-soaked brain.
Binge drinking and pub brawls have turned into such a problem for British authorities that the current administration has considered keeping pubs open 24 hours a day.
In an address to the House of Commons last April, British Home Secretary Jack Straw said, fixed closing times encouraged binge drinking around last orders. "The result is lots of people hitting the streets — and sometimes each other — at the same time."
A 1993 government survey found that 16 percent of all violent incidents happened in or near pubs or clubs; a study the previous year found 47 percent of violent incidents near pubs happened between 11 p.m. and midnight.
‘A Fun Thing’
Tilley's idea of appealing to clubbers' inner child came from an American psychologist he met on a course. "His argument was that if such music was played as people leave a club, instead of a thumping beat, those people are reminded of their childhood and will not want to seek a confrontation," said Tilley. "It's clearly a fun thing."
Some club managers have cautiously welcomed the new scheme. "It would have to be an American idea, wouldn't it?" Rob Baxter, the manager of Undecided, one of the pilot clubs, told the The Daily Telegraph. "But we'll give it a try."
Others were a tad more enthusiastic. "It's a great idea," said Wesley Osborne, general manager of Zanzibar, in The Times . "We have got to try anything that puts people in a happy frame of mind."
But Jason Randall, 30, a regular clubber was not biting the lollipop bait. "I would really prefer a free kebab and chips and a taxi to take me home," he told The Times.