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Last Updated: Monday, 4 August, 2003, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Could Britain have a cafe culture?
The growth of continental-style cafes should be encouraged in the UK's towns and cities, a report by MPs suggests.

It also recommends a move away from current high levels of pubs and drinking venues to make town centres more inclusive.

The report forms part of the government drive to encourage more people to live in town and city centres.

Would a cafe culture revive urban Britain?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of views we have received:

This topic was suggested by Steve Ford, Nottingham
Can Britain embrace 'cafe culture'?

As long as the cafes serve beer, wine and spirits then I'd be all for it!!
Nick, UK

People actually live in Continental towns and cities; the virtual elimination of private rented property has caused the current problems. Fix this and things will change for the better - city centres will no longer die at five o'clock in the evening.
Ian, England

I say no. Keep our pubs. Keep our boozing. Keep our drunken stupors. Please do not make me consume caffeine. I do not want to be sober enough to face reality and I do not want a family friendly environment.
Simon, UK

Great Britain is Eurotizing and is gradually forsaking its entire culture. Fortunately even if Britain fails victim to Continentalism, the values that took hundreds of years to cultivate in Britain will still live on in the US and Australia. So have your state-run cafe coffee but be warned at has a terrible poison in it.
Colin Keesee, US

Traditional British pubs must be preserved
Cafes on the continent are great. Drinking beer in warm weather in a nice 'place' makes a change from pubs. But come winter, nothing beats a traditional English pub with locals and a log fire. Grand cafes could replace the odd (but not all) philistine mass drinking dens in city centres (although Britain lacks the communal squares) but traditional British pubs must be preserved since they are an integral part of British culture.

As a British ex-pat, I think a cafe culture in the UK would catch on given half a chance. It's not as social as the pub, but it is a very pleasant way to spend some leisure time and certainly makes a street come alive. Even some of our main streets in Toronto have outdoor cafes and we love it!
Patricia Martchenko, Canada

Excellent idea! Being 24 years old and not a drinker, the evening pubbing scene isn't for me. I would welcome the cafe culture - and totally agree evening town-centre entertainment should not be based around alcohol and the younger generation.
Mark, England

Is there no limit to the amount of interference and control politicians wish to exert over our lives? While I like the idea of being able to use city centres in the evening what has it got to do with Whitehall?
Ken B, UK

It's not going to work!
Antony, UK
Right. So all the louts who go out and down 20 pints of lager before smashing things up and using doorways as public conveniences are suddenly going to stop and say "Hey! Why don't we just sit down and have a coffee instead!" It's not going to work! I think instilling some concepts of consideration for others and common decency in people would work better...
Antony, UK

A great idea! If it would break through the alcoholic mist of the people who would benefit the most from it.
K S Morgan, UK/RO

It seems silly to strive for a "cafe culture" which involves a way of life and philosophy more than simply sitting outside. Sure, sometimes it is a little noisy, but who cares when you're engrossed in a good magazine or laughing with friends? And, if it's chilly out, all you need are heat lamps, they work!
Kari, California, USA

I don't see it in your national psyche to be a cafe culture. England is England. Keep hold of your bad food, your great beer, and your tea time. It's part your national and world character. Be proud of it.
Michael, US

I think this is exactly the kind of direction that should be promoted, particularly in local towns and cities that suffer from an over-saturation of pubs and night clubs and all the problems they invariably bring. I think the kind of continental cafe approach being recommended is one effective way of making many town centres safer and will create a less intimidating alcohol fuelled 'yob' culture that can be massively beneficial for local regeneration and the image of many areas that suffer from the kind of negative imagery caused by having too many nightclubs on their doorsteps!
Andrew, UK

I just wish there was more to do
Spud, Brighton
I'm not too bothered about developing a cafe culture in particular, but I just wish there was more to do in some towns than just go to a loud overcrowded chain pub or cheesy commercial club. The idea that somehow at the very least this caters for young people is a complete myth as well - it caters for beerboys and that's all. I moved from Kingston to Brighton, and haven't regretted it one bit. There's pubs, bars, clubs, cafes, the beach, you name it - the point is that it's busy without being threatening and there's something for everyone - you get to do what you want to do, and everyone else can do the same! Live and let live, that's what I say...
Spud, Brighton

This is definitely a good idea to have a more cafe culture based society. The mobile urinals are really needed as well as there's nowhere to go the toilet once the pubs have been closed. In Amsterdam there are permanent exterior urinals which blend in with the street and offer a modicum more discretion than the mobile ones, even if they are only for men.
Duncan, UK

I drink in pubs and I'm not a yob. I've enjoyed many relaxing evenings over the years, including times when the rain was pouring down outside. I don't want to take my children there because its a time for adult conversation, and I already do spend plenty of time talking to children. Sit outside in the cold and rain by the road getting dust and car fumes spewed over me? And take my two-year old to get the same? I'd rather not, actually.
Chris, UK

There's nothing wrong with having our own pub culture in theory - but the problems start when the drinking gets out of hand. Every town centre now has to put up with drunken revellers causing a nuisance every weekend. This is giving our town centres venues a bad image - alienating anyone over 25. Trying to encourage non alcohol related establishments could at least begin to solve this - and I'm all for it !
Ian, Nottingham, UK

Is the majority of the country sophisticated enough to evolve?
Phil Jones, England
Whether it be Paris, Barcelona or Amsterdam over the last few weekends I have been educated into what it is like to wake up on Sunday morning without a banging headache, memory loss or the rude awakening of what is lying next to me. It's been refreshing to go out have a few beers and actually communicate with people, rather than shout, dribble or fall over in a ditch while trying to flag down a taxi. 'Cafe Culture' is the way forward, but is the majority of the country sophisticated enough to evolve?
Phil Jones, England

If Manchester City Council want to encourage more people into the city centre, they need to sort out the taxi situation. I'm fed up of waiting hours for cabs then when I get one, being ripped off for a 20 minute journey - black cabs have even started offering flat fees for journeys and when you tell them you'll take the metre fare - they drive off. Maybe councillors can do something about this before getting their suburban roads resurfaced year on year.
Clare, Manchester, UK

I was on the King's Road in Chelsea where there already is a cafe culture. Unfortunately the pavements surround big busy, lead-spouting roadways. So there was no way I'd want to eat outside, being a hay fever sufferer already.
Ken, England

The continental way is wonderful - on the continent! The UK is just too cold. Even on a nice summer's day it gets chilly in the evening, so there is little incentive for a family to wander out, and none at all for an older person. If the government wants young people to drink less, they need to encourage sports and cultural activities by providing more amenities.
Alan, UK

Sitting outside would require everyone to be wrapped up in scarves and coats
Greg, Belgium
No - Most certainly not. The cafe culture is something we enjoy an experience of when we go on holiday. The main problem here is that Britain is too cold. On all but the odd summer evening, sitting outside would require everyone to be wrapped up in scarves and coats. The only place this could work would be Newcastle, where people will be happy to sit out in shirts irrespective of the season. Great idea, but impractical, at odds with British drinking culture, and most importantly takes away one of the charms of visiting the continent.
Greg, Belgium

Britain has its own distinct feel when we go to the high street which is as different but as nice. Besides, who would want to sit in the cold, rain and fog drinking tea? No thanks!
Tony, UK

Having spent a year in Germany and Spain I would like to see a similar cafe culture take off in the UK just to offer some variety from the overcrowded and loud chain pubs in city centres. However the main problems are the weather and views that people can only have a good time by drinking alcohol. And why should they have to be in city centres in the first place?
Alwyn, UK

In Heaton Moor (a leafy bit of Stockport) we already have a cafe society
Roger Jackson, England
In Heaton Moor (a leafy bit of Stockport) we already have a cafe society. The paint shop, the grocers the men's clothes shop and the butchers have all become 'cafes' but they all serve alcohol as well (they could not survive on just coffee) as they compete with three pubs. There are also four restaurants. However, I don't see that the other shops (apart from the late shop) will want to stay open for longer hours as they would have to pay staff and increase their prices to cover the costs making them uncompetitive.
Roger Jackson, England

Is this why we send MPs to Parliament and pay them so handsomely? I don't think so. And how popular would cafes be if smoking in public is banned? Not very I would guess.
Stephen, UK

Hailing from South Africa, I was dumbstruck by the proliferation of pubs when I first arrived in the UK. I was just as astounded by the lack of cafes. The South African lifestyle revolves around cafes - in fact, many teenagers and twenty-something's see them as an integral part of the country's culture and a crucial means of social interaction. The good weather there does, however, contribute to the popularity of the outdoor seating... I definitely think it will benefit the UK to implement these plans.
Martin, England

As a non-alcohol drinker I would certainly welcome something of that nature. My town has become a no go area for people like me to socialise in. I wish it would consider something like this instead of giving out free for all licences to pub landlords.
Kam, Oldham

I really don't enjoy sitting outside in the town centre whilst a load of inebriated idiots scream and shout at each other
Gavin, UK
I love the cafe culture in Europe, but that has evolved over many years. Our city has experimented with more outside seating at city centre pubs, but I really don't enjoy sitting outside in the town centre whilst a load of inebriated idiots scream and shout at each other. Enjoy the culture on the continent, I personally don't think it will work here.
Gavin, UK

In other countries I've been to such as Australia, France, Spain going out is a much more restful and civilised affair, where you don't have to go out until 9pm because everything's open late. Here you have to run out of the door as soon as you're home from work. I would also welcome a change from the yob culture of our pub packed city centres.
Susie, UK

Where I live in west London we have a whole host of pavement cafes on the high road and a pleasant, vibrant atmosphere late into the summer evenings. This is definitely a big city phenomenon, though - I think it will be a long time before every UK village has a cafe terrace overlooking the cricket pitch on the green!
Douglas, UK

I have just returned from a long weekend in Berlin and my experience of the social life there has for me highlighted many of the deficiencies that exist in British social culture. Closing hours do not really exist - the end result, no desperate attempts to down as much as is humanly possible in the 20 mins that precede the mass congregations of seemingly, and often aggressively, drunk people that are produced by this country's archaic closing times.

Should licensing laws in this country be brought more in line with those of the continent, there would be less pressure to binge drink and greater opportunity in avoiding the problems associated with those periods immediately following closing since people would be more likely to leave in dribs and drabs given the greater freedom they would have in deciding when to go home.
Colin, UK

Britain's tea-shops are nothing but a stilted version of our continental cousins
Adrian Bridgwater, Epsom
Absolutely! As an ex-resident of Italy and Dubai I have spent countless hours drinking coffee and talking with friends in cafes. Britain's 'tea-shops' are nothing but a stilted version of our continental cousins more relaxed approach to sharing a brew. They need be to local independently run cafes though, Starbucks is characterless and over-priced!
Adrian Bridgwater, Epsom, England

Anything would be better than the existing 'pub culture', as a visit to any town centre on a weekend night will confirm!
Lin, UK

Judging by the enormous success of a certain coffee firms late night cafe in Leicester square I think it's clear that people love the idea of being able to go to a cafe for a drink and a chat rather than to a pub where you have to queue 10 deep at the bar!
Gemma, UK

Are overpriced coffee bars really the solution to enticing people out of their snug safe homes? Many large shopping centres stay open late already (In Reading we can shop until 8pm) and the cafes certainly don't seem to get much business. Of course the pubs, bars and restaurants are all booming. I see this as a worrying move, as it could motivate local councils to restrict the opening of new exciting venues and replace those with cafes that, in my experience, are not that popular.
Matt Sapiano, Reading, UK

It has been tried time and time again here in Sheffield
J Smith, Sheffield
It has been tried time and time again here in Sheffield, but none of the proposed schemes gets off the ground, the council always refuses a license, and the police moan that it'll be considerably more work for them. You would be hard pushed to find a pub in Sheffield city centre that isn't packed to the limit, with stupidly loud music, and hardly any bar-staff !
J Smith, Sheffield, UK

No, I am totally against this idea. Pubs are a British institution and should not be altered to copy European styles that obviously would not work here.
Paul Brown, UK

I think this is the single best idea for UK nightlife. Cafe culture is the way forward. There needs to be more places where one can relax, be yourself and have a great conversation without the need of a drug like alcohol which only creates a false sense of security and confidence to do that. It will also give an alternative to the 'yob/lad' culture that many youth like myself don't identify with.
Ronnie, London, UK

I'm not sure the Brits have the right attitude for the cafe culture. They would either charge an extortionate rate for a cuppa or be tidying up and moving you on as soon as you'd taken your last sip. Money rules over here in the way of making a pound now rather than 2 pound tomorrow. For cafe culture to work, the cafe owners need to relax more.
Chris, England

We need to get past this national obsession with alcohol being the only way to have fun
Katherine, UK
My social life ceased to be based around pubs quite a while ago and it would be lovely to go out in the evening to somewhere not exclusively based on booze. The upcoming changes to licensing laws will help that, hopefully putting an end to a lot of the 'last half hour before closing' binge drinking. But we still need to get past this national obsession with alcohol being the only way to loosen up and have fun.
Katherine, UK

After living in the UK for 4 years, I think you should make alcohol available in more places. By making the purchase and consumption of alcohol illegal almost everywhere except in pubs etc, you glorify it in the eyes of youngsters. You make it a "cool" thing, associated with adulthood. That doesn't work. In Greece, one can buy drinks at McDonalds, at supermarkets anytime, at street kiosks, etc. And even though drinking spirits (especially wine, beer & Ouzo) is an important part of our culture, we have the lowest number of alcoholics in Europe.
Georgios Aristidou, Athens, Greece

While I'd be among the first to welcome a meeting place where you can hear yourself think for a change, the resurgence of the coffee bars in central London doesn't seem to have reduced the number of people standing in and around the pubs of an evening. Also why, in a society that's otherwise so keen on avoiding sexual discrimination issues, is there a drive to introduce urinals instead of proper toilets? I thought these modernizing measures were supposed to stop the towns being taken over by groups of lads out on a binge, rather than making this the only viable option!
Liz, UK

Let's go for a coffee, shall we?
Linda Robinson, Greece
What a wonderful idea that Britain should have a cafe culture. I live and work in Greece where the cafe culture is well-established, particularly amongst the young and have often thought that we should have something similar in the UK. Many of my students who go to England to study comment on the lack of good coffee and the over-indulgence in alcohol of young Brits. 'Let's go for a coffee,' shall we?
Linda Robinson, Greece

I would love to think our city centres could become more like our continental neighbours - but we need much stricter planning controls to stop the continual growth in binge drinking establishments designed for kids who's only objective is to go out and drink themselves into oblivion in a noisy, sweaty bar. I will not go into Oxford on a Friday or Saturday night - and will certainly not go in any pub with bouncers on the door.
Dave Elliot, UK

I live in Manchester, city famous of its clubbing. Although I fancy a beer, I can hardly find a quiet and non-smoking place to a quality chat with my friends. During the weekend, almost all places in the city centre are smoky, crowded with very loud music.
Carlos, Manchester

A cafe culture would not only revive towns and cities it would also transform tourism in this country. The UK, with the massive 5.30pm shutdown every day is one of the greatest turn-offs to anyone touring in Britain. With cafes, etc open all hours tourists would have a more relaxed, satisfying and enjoyable memory of Britain and its people.
JohnM, LyneMeads,UK

If you want a European culture, go and live there
Alan Baker, England
I work in London but when I get off the train I enjoy a couple of pints after work in my local country pub before going home The people who want a cafe culture in this country are the same people who want to ban smoking in public places or want the law to allow their noisy uncontrollable little brats into pubs, Who are these people ? The European lovers.. To all these people I say if you want a European culture, go and live there and leave us 'Little Englanders' in peace to enjoy our pint.
Alan Baker, England

This idea is based on a mistaken assumption that there exists one Continental cafe-culture. Cafes in the Netherlands have little in common with tapas bars in Spain, coffee bars in Italy or beer cellars in Germany. On the contrary, when in Britain I have always admired the pub-culture which is very inclusive and involves in many pubs people of all ages and life-styles. On the continent those are separated much more.
Frans, Amsterdam

Several years ago the Government promised a radical overhaul of the licensing laws, which would give us 24 hour pub opening in some places and kill off the closing time glut at 11pm. This was supposed to happen last year. We're still waiting.
Jack Howard, UK

Great Idea, I have already seen a difference in Glasgow in areas such as Royal Exchange square and the Italian centre and in the west end, where, recently loads of street cafes have appeared and restaurants have outdoor areas. They are extremely popular because you can never get a seat, but it also looks good and tourists like it. Other cities should follow!
Stuart, Glasgow, Scotland

In Europe they have much wider pavements
Martin, England
One difference with our towns to Europe is that in Europe they have much wider pavements which can fit chairs, tables and passing pedestrians. It wouldn't be long before pavement rage makes it way into the dictionary.
Martin, England

If the public wants more 'cafes' in the UK, then let some entrepreneurs build them if there is a real demand. If there is no demand for 'cafes', then don't build them. Why get the government involved in a matter that is derived purely from personal preferences? This sounds like a case of people creating a problem when there isn't a problem.
Jeff Turner, USA, Texas

Great idea. More diversity, more choice when looking for somewhere pleasant to socialise. The reason many city centre pubs are so bad is the big breweries have been able to focus unchallenged on their profit-makers : the young kids who just want to drink until they're sick. And no I'm not anti-alcohol, I enjoy my beer I just don't like yob culture getting in my face. Cheers!
Gareth, Cambridge, UK

What right does the Government or a group of politicians have to tell Britons what to do in their free time. I say this even though I would support an expansion of a cafe culture. However, this change should come about through an improvement in British cultural life and consequent reduction in the level of philistinism in British society. Government should leave the people alone.
GYS, London, UK

The European cafe open till the wee hours is another great British myth
Rob, Central London
The European cafe open till the wee hours is another great British myth. Sure in the holiday resorts they're pleased to take you money. But even in cities such as Paris, let alone the provincial towns, you often struggle to find a cafe after 10 or 11 pm (except in the most touristy of areas). These brilliant forward thinking MP's should have a word with an American company called "Starbucks" they're very popular in the US, and perhaps they could encourage them to open a branch over here.
Rob, Central London

This is just more unwanted control freakery from Westminster. I assume that these interfering MPs will soon be recommending a law that says we all have to drink coffee, plus a new set of "caffeine absorption" targets for us all to hit and a monitoring body to make sure that we do.
John R Smith, UK

It will take much more than a glut of "cool" coffee bars and pavement cafes to encourage people to live in city or town centres. Affordable house prices would be a more sensible starting point.
Andy, Lancs

We already have a cafe culture, in London at least. But I prefer homely pubs to superficial, pretentious and overpriced coffee bars.
John, UK

We seem to have forgotten that there are alternatives to drinking until you fall down
Andy D, UK
What a brilliant idea. We seem to have forgotten that there are alternatives to drinking until you fall down. Visit any European city (not just the warm ones) and you'll find literally hundreds of places where you can go out and have something to eat (or not), drink (or not) and sit and talk - actually make conversation (or not) - in civilised surroundings with no pressure to get drunk and without bouncers breathing down your neck.
Andy D, UK

I believe it is a cultural thing and won't be overcome just by opening a few cafes. Where we live, in a residential area of San Vendemiano, we have a gelateria on the corner of the road - not another shop in sight. Most evenings the local people go there, very young and very old. The children play with each other and the others, who choose to sit on a seat outside to eat their ice cream, socialise and indulge in general chit-chat. There are no tables there, but sometimes the local folk will stick around for a couple of hours. This reveals more of a culture of "community" in its best sense. That isn't to say all is sweetness and light otherwise, but it helps.
Peter Vintner, Italy

As an asthmatic, I avoid pubs because of the foul smoke-filled air. I also don't like pubs because single women can be bothered by drunken, leering oafs who don't believe that they just want a quiet drink on their own. Make coffee shops (or at least some of them) smoke-free and I pretty much guarantee that you'll see groups of women making the coffee shop a stop on their shopping/socialising scene.
Jenny, London, UK

We have cafe culture in abundance when the sun shines. Have these MP's been away for a while?
R.C. Robjohn, UK

Instead of continental style cafes I would really like to see the return of traditional English tea rooms, selling all types of tea with cakes and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
Deborah, UK

Cafes are for people who can't handle their Stella.
Tom, England

If people stopped binge-drinking and pubs started selling coffee what difference would there be between a British town centre pub and continental cafe ??
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey
If people stopped binge-drinking, avoided shouting, turned down the volume of music, and started selling coffee in addition to alcohol, what difference would there be between a British town centre pub and continental cafe ?? I know where quiet and safe pubs are in the town. I don't need cafes.
Mustafa Yorumcu, UK/Turkey

There is one fatal flaw in this plan, the weather.
M Reyes, UK

Excellent. I love our pub culture but what we have at the moment in most town centres are bars and pubs run by large chains. More inclusive venues would be brilliant - the cities would regain their HEART, which is something that most of them have lost.
Chris, UK

Don't you have better things to think about?
Aldo, Italy

Yet another disgusting bit of social engineering designed to attack traditional working-class culture. Let Tim Martin & JD Wetherspoons sort it out.
Andy Stringer, England

This is certainly a great idea but only if coupled with other changes such as people's attitude that anything 'foreign' is a degradation of our UK culture.
Jay, Belgium (UK Ex-pat)

Oh please! It's already hard enough to find a real pub!
Adam, UK

The current drinking culture is an unfortunate consequence of our antiquated licensing laws. Once these are relaxed we will hopefully see a move away from the current culture of binging for 2 hours on Friday and Saturday Nights. However, cultures do not change overnight!
James Gaisford, UK

You can put the cafe into Britons, but can you put the culture?
Ian Hawck, UK

YES! It'd be a nice departure from the yob culture!
Suki Marwaha, India

Presently, relaxed social activity in the UK is all but made impossible
Paul, UK
If Britain got rid of its absurd, monopolising licensing laws and other things like government interference regarding the 'proper' use of tables and chairs then something like 'cafe culture' would grow as a response to people's natural tendency to socialise freely. Presently, relaxed social activity in the UK is all but made impossible. No wonder holidays abroad feel so good, in many places abroad you are actually legally allowed to congregate and socialise for more than an hour.
Paul, UK

What a great idea. Everything seems to be centred around pubs nowadays, and to be honest, although I like a beer, I prefer a nice cafe where one can chat and just chill out without the fear of aggression and gobby youths. I'm all for it.
S R Fricker, UK

Our pub culture is unique, let's not erode that by adopting someone else's lifestyle
Nigel, UK

The "cafe culture" is all very well, but all these establishments grossly over-charge for a cup of coffee. Perhaps they should be investigated by the OFT. If they want to attract people to them, then prices should not put them off. As a social drinker, I do not like over-crowded, over-loud pubs, so it is up to me where I drink. The youth of this country will always be attracted to somewhere where there is "life", so a quiet cup of coffee will never appeal to them.
Tony, England

Of course we need a cafe culture. It would help if we could pedestrianise our city centres and get rid of all the horrid cars!
Andy, London

Absolutely! At the moment the UK has a great selection of pubs, but these aren't everyone's taste! I would welcome a cafe as I don't drink alcohol and the atmosphere in a cafe is less nicotine filled and definitely has less beer bellies!

They provided an affordable venue for meeting and chatting
Martin, UK
I grew up in the era of coffee bars. Some were glitzy, some were not, some could provide food, others didn't - but they provided an affordable venue for meeting and chatting. Parents didn't worry and kids socialised. Definitely one of the better things from fifty years ago!
Martin, UK

I am ashamed of town centre British pub culture. But while I'd love to see a more inclusive European style and attitude, I can't see it happening any time soon. I think economic forces and cultural inertia will keep the town and city centres full of drunken revellers for very many years to come.
Mark Hodgson, UK

Until the drinks industry stops its constant drive to get younger and younger people legless then unfortunately it will not happen.
Ed Blain, England

Since life after children I and my partner feel more inclined to sit in more relaxed less alcohol oriented establishments - it can only be a good thing, pity about the weather.
Dan, UK

Cafes are less daunting than going into a pub on your own
Lisa, Ireland
I have lived in a few different European countries and I love the whole Cafe culture of abroad. Certainly when we have good weather it is much nicer to have a larger choice of where you can relax and spend your time. The pub is great but sometimes it's nice to be able to sit in a nice cafe with friends chatting. What is even nicer is if you are a single female and you want to go out and have a quite drink, cafes are less daunting than going into a pub on your own. All hail the Cafe culture, it will never replace the pub but everything has its own place in the natural order of things.
Lisa, Ireland

Bring back the traditional tea-shops!
Jeremy, England

Nice idea, but when can we have the same working hours and holidays as our continental cousins?
Sarah, UK

Bad idea. In Chelmsford, where I live, the constant push for City Status by some questionable members of the town, has lead to an upsurge in bars, cafes, restaurants and sandwich bars. The result? Shops that have been in business for almost 80 or so years have had to close because of rates increases, there is food rubbish all over the high street and all the proper shops have all but moved out. If you pop into Chelmsford town centre now you're 50 times more likely to be able to get a cappuccino than an air fresher for your car! These cafes have also helped attract people with a lot of money to throw about, leading to increased house prices, increased muggings and even beggars. All of which we never had five years ago.
Richard, Chelmsford, UK

If you look at Mediterranean 'cafe culture' countries - very often the reason that shops are open later in the evening is that they close between 2pm & 5pm or thereabouts. To have shops open during the day and the evening later with no extra business is probably a no go cost wise. However the basic idea is fine for the few short months of summer that we have. In winter though all you want is either a drink or to go home! An additional point is that to encourage a culture of 'hanging out' in cafes before going home you need to reduce the amount of commuting done in this country. If you know you have one or more hours travelling ahead of you all you want to do is get home, get dinner, relax and go to bed to be ready for the next day.
Brian S. McIntosh, UK

Most cafes would look out on unpleasant grime and traffic
Darren, England
It won't happen. Our weather is too vile to support it. Give it up as a lost cause. Also, the vast majority of our pavements and roads are so horrible that most cafes would look out on unpleasant grime and traffic. No thanks.
Darren, England

Absolutely. Pubs and bars are all very well, but venues to meet up with friends for a quiet drink with no smoke-filled rooms and shouting against music would definitely be welcomed. Other European cities cope with changeable weather (Brussels or Paris for example). We could make more of our pretty squares and fine architecture and move away from mall-style shopping. Who would want to sit at a pavement cafe in a concrete jungle?
Sue, UK

Europe's more liberal approach to licensing hours encourages a more relaxed attitude to evening leisure time, whereas we Brits just panic and binge. But I would also say that the cost of buying a drink in an UK café or restaurant is prohibitive, particularly the extortionate amounts charged for wine. If the government wants to encourage responsible drinking with meals then perhaps the industry needs tax breaks to make their drinks more competitively priced.
Rico, UK

A £3 cup of coffee from one of the coffee chains will only encourage upper middle class, self obsessed nimby's into the centre of town. The vast majority of people don't want pubs, clubs, coffee shops etc, just affordable housing, good schools and a safe environment in which to shop. But Oh no! That would actually mean the government of this country having to cater to the people rather than the multinationals who run the shops
Vish, UK

No. Why on earth should we change to fit into others ideas of how we should be.
Tom, England

In Paris, you can sit out side a cafe, drinking either a coffee, or an end of evening cocktail at 4am. That's cafe culture, and that's why its so popular on the continent. With last orders being 11pm, and most councils banning pavement tables, we have a long way to go before we can even think about it!
Sean, England

How about legislation limiting number of cafes one company can own (as breweries are limited to no of tied pubs) here are already too many Starbucks, Costas etc also we should look to Vienna (a city with winters) for our model rather than Italy, who wants to sit outside on metal chairs in a British winter?
Susan, UK

It will be hard to convince the groups of young men who go out early, drink as much tequila/lager as possible until they fall over and are sick in the street and hailed as heroes by the rest of the group. Doubt they'll suddenly start ordering a triple chocolate latte and a cream cheese bagel!
Lindsay, UK

This would definitely get us out of the house and away from the TV
Sara, UK
I think this is a brilliant idea. My partner and I aren't really into the bars and clubs scene and are fed up of staying in on Saturday nights because there are really no alternatives in our town. This would definitely get us out of the house and away from the TV!
Sara, UK

How nice. A group of MPs has once again decided that the general public should do something, and they want to give local councils power to enforce it. What next, a fine if you're spotted on the street without a cup of coffee? When will this government stop interfering in every detail of our lives?
Bob Campbell, UK

I think it's the best idea that MP's have thought of in ages. I would definitely participate in this 'cafe culture'.
Michelle, England

If it's a move to encourage people to live in town and city centres then cars will have to be banned, and rain too. Sounds like the MP's have been in the pub too long.
Tm Potts, UK

Cultural uniqueness is something to be proud of
Graeme Phillips, UK
We are in danger of cultural assimilation the way Macau is at the moment, when it comes to China. I agree that a glut of pubs and a dearth of anything else is a bit boring, but why would we want to become just another country in Europe? Continental Europe already has a glut of cities with a café culture anyway, so perhaps its time to think up something new, exciting and original. I've nothing against the café culture or Europe, but cultural uniqueness is something to be proud of. Surely there is a third way, say 24 hour shopping, or round-the-clock cream tea shops or something?
Graeme Phillips, UK

I have just been on holiday to Portugal, and enjoyed the night life in an old style town with no big night clubs. Cafes were open till the small hours of the morning. All however sold beer, moreover they sold beer at a non inflated price, (all were about the same per glass). This would not happen in the UK! Have you ever looked at the cost of restaurant drinks! Were the UK to go down this avenue it would be yet another case of rip-off Britain, just look at coffee prices in UK cafes, no wonder no one uses them!. Let's keep our traditional pubs, and our culture.

We should take a leaf out of the continental book regarding sensible opening hours for venues selling alcohol. We should protect our traditional pubs from development by greedy breweries and large property chains. Rip-Off Britain is destroying our culture, I for one will use continental cafes where they belong, on the continent - and enjoy them! Here in the UK you can keep them, give me a traditional Pub with beer at sensible prices where I can sit round a table and chat to my mates. No more stupid extortionate "theme bars" or indeed "theme cafes"!! Lets keep our culture British and be proud of it.
Bob, UK

Cardiff has been trying to develop a cafe culture, but all the cafes shut at 5pm! We have a 'Cafe Quarter' but all that means is heavy drinking with Spanish beer and Latin music. I hope we can get this to work, but it will take some time.
Patrick Daley, Wales

I think the Idea is great, although we also need to consider adopting the (higher) number of public holidays that most continental countries offer, and the idea of a siesta before embracing cafe culture!
Luke, UK

This is a great idea...but when are we going to follow the continental lead and change the UK's out-of-date licensing laws? That will make the real difference in reducing alcohol-related violence and reducing the cost of going out for an evening
Jon, UK

Great idea, as long as we can have the weather too!
Ben, UK

I would certainly be encouraged to stay out for longer if this kind of culture existed, and would much rather spend my money on a cup of coffee and a chat than a pint and a shouting match with a pub jukebox.
Antonia, UK

Definitely. It'd be great to have this in the UK. I can't understand why it hasn't happened any sooner. It would definitely make going out more pleasurable and it would make a lot more people come out to socialise. Cafe's can sell alcoholic drinks as well as standard drinks. It would certainly see me going out a lot more often.
Dan, UK

Cafe culture call for UK towns
01 Aug 03  |  Politics

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