Alcohol issues have risen in political salience in Britain in recent years, but this is a policy area contested in complex ways. This article tells the rather convoluted story of the 2003 English and Welsh Licensing Act and relates it to some theories about the influence of ideas on the policy process. The policy originated as a regulation and trading one but was broadened out to fit into New Labour's modernisation agenda. The legislation soon became laden with expectations and forebodings, both political and social, that went far beyond its original remit and, once the media had latched on to it, became highly controversial with the accent placed upon ‘24 hour drinking’. The history of the legislation shows how the intellectual framing and departmental policy are intertwined and how Béland's idea of ‘road maps’ being used by policy entrepreneurs has some resonance, but plays down the capacity of the media to divert or influence the policy discourse.