Round-the-clock drinking in England and Wales is now a reality after new licensing laws came in force.
More than 1,000 pubs, clubs and supermarkets have been granted 24-hour licences to sell alcohol, according to government figures.
Around 40% of premises applied to vary their licences by either extending their opening by an hour or two or by offering late food and entertainment.
It has led to fears disorder will put more pressure on police and hospitals.
But Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell told BBC Newsnight the new law was necessary “to make it possible for the vast majority of people who drink but who never get into trouble to have more freedom as to when they drink”.
“But also, to give the police the powers that they need to tackle the problem we have as a country of alcohol-related crime and violence,” she said.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said recorded crime was set to rise as police resources targeted alcohol-fuelled offences.
“We are determined to tackle alcohol-related violence and anti-social behaviour in all its forms and crack down on those who encourage it by irresponsible retailing,” he said.
Britain’s most senior police officer said he was worried his force’s resources would be “stretched”, particularly in the early hours of the morning.
Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said: “I have made clear that I see anybody who wants a drink at four in the morning as a special interest group and those who are making profits out of it are going to have to pay.”
BBC research suggests that around one-third of all licensed clubs, pubs and shops in England and Wales will be able to open for longer under the new laws.
Of the 375 licensing authorities surveyed, 301 responded in full. BBC News 24 researchers found 60,326 outlets can sell alcohol for longer.
But only 1,121, including 359 pubs and clubs, are getting 24-hour licences.
The survey results came after ministers warned the introduction of more relaxed licensing laws on Thursday was likely to lead to an increase in alcohol related arrests.
Meanwhile, the chairman of J D Wetherspoon, Tim Martin, has said up to 90% of his pubs – of which there are over 650 – will stay open for one or two hours later as a result of the new licensing laws in England.
Mr Martin told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Whether we make a buck nobody knows for sure.”
Courtesy BBC News
The first weekend after the change in licensing laws did not bring the predicted wave of alcohol-fuelled violence and debauchery.
A police leader warned that 24-hour drinking would lead to a reduction in the number of police recruits, because they would not want to spend all their time dealing with binge drinkers.
There were also warnings that the lack of late-night public transport and other facilities would lead to an increase in disorder.
But police said the full implications would not be clear for at least six months.