Pubs and nightclubs frequently serve people who are already drunk, according to research carried out by Liverpool John Moores University.
In doing so, they are breaking the Licensing Act 2003 which makes it illegal to sell alcohol to someone who is drunk, or to try and buy it on their behalf. Anyone found guilty of the offence can be fined up to £1,000, but prosecutions rarely happen with only three convictions taking place in 2010.
In the study carried out by the university's World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Violence Prevention, actors staggered to the bar at more than 70 pubs, bars and nightclubs in a northern city in England and ordered a vodka and coke in a loud, slurred voice, reported the Daily Mail.
They were successfully served drinks 84% of the times, with the figure raising to 94% on Friday nights and 96% after midnight.
On many occasions, the bar staff were said to recognize the drunken state of customers, but still continued to served them.
The study's authors said that nightlife drunkenness places "enormous burdens" on health and health services. "Preventing alcohol sales to drunks should be a public health priority, while policy failures on issues, such as alcohol pricing, are revisited," they explained.
"Although our study focused on one city, a lack of prosecution for sales to drunks throughout England suggests this is typical of nightlife environments nationally.
"With policies to prevent alcohol-related harm by increasing alcohol prices failing to be implemented, increased use of legislation preventing sales of alcohol to drunks should be considered a public health priority.'
The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.