More than half of Punch pubs have taken advantage of the move to extended licensing hours, but predictions that the law change would lead to round-the-clock binge drinking have proved wide off the mark.
Research by Punch Taverns found that 56% of its leased, tenanted and managed outlets had extended their trading hours since the Licensing Act 2003 came into force in 2005.
But the chain has stressed that for most this has simply meant trading for an extra couple of hours and mostly then just at weekends or on special occasions such as New Year's Eve.
Its findings have come as research from pollster Datamonitor has suggested that, despite the longer time available for people to drink, alcohol consumption in the UK, apart from wine, has only been growing slowly.
In fact, beer consumption is falling, with the amount consumed per head over a year in the UK down to 127.8 litres last year, from 128.9 litres in 2001.
• Insurance company Aon has also warned pubs not to become complacent, arguing that the new licensing laws put pubs at greater risk of over-serving drunk customers, something that in the USA has led to expensive "liquor liability" lawsuits. Bars and restaurants in the USA can be held liable for the harm or crime caused by a customer, if it can be shown that the bar staff served further alcohol when they were already intoxicated. The threat of alcohol claims has now been identified on this side of the Atlantic as a high risk to insurers this year, it added.
By Nic Paton