The emergence and growth of youth-oriented leisure was a cause for concern throughout the twentieth century. This concern almost always boiled down to two key issues: how and where young people were spending their time. Through the post-war period it was the commercial spaces of youth leisure and, in particular, those spaces that provided late-night entertainments, that attracted the most attention. The new coffee bars, jazz clubs, discos, and late-night bars of the post-war urban leisurescape, it was argued, encouraged drunkenness, violence, disorder, and sexual transgressions. That behaviour was only rendered more visible by the growing number of venues in urban centres that catered explicitly or solely to young consumers.
Drawn from a larger project on the history of youth and commercial leisure in post-war Britain, this paper explores how long-standing anxieties about commercial leisure intersected with attempts to regulate and control the modern urban night. Young people's presence in the urban centre after dark held the potential for danger and disruption, yet was central to the successful reimagining of post-war city as centres as sites of pleasure and recreation.
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