Thursday, 21 October 2010
Why Do We Still Have Glass Glasses?
A few months ago, I was drinking in a charming little shithole pub called The Britannia, a Tudor-style watering hole near the edge of Oldham centre. It was fairly traditional- no doormen, no dress code, but rammed on this particular Saturday night.
The moment you walk in, you know what’s going to happen. If someone looks like a chav, and acts like a chav, they probably are a chav. And when a tiny pub is full, and 90% of the customers fit that bill, it isn’t going to stay peaceful. It couldn’t not kick off. It’s an inevitability within the circumstances.
Bar fights follow a certain pattern. You’d imagine they'd be noisy affairs, but there’s a crescendo of sound just before the actual fight. In a busy bar, you’ll see virtually nothing on your average kick-off- unless you’re stood right next to it. The people closest to the fight- but who aren’t involved- they all step back onto the toes of the people behind them. The bar’s hubbub increases with a few “woah”s before all casual conversation is cut off. The brawlers have everyone’s attention; they are fighting in near silence.
In this instance, a tall guy in a United shirt was launching himself at another ruffian, who had fallen back onto his arse. Ruffian, soaked in beer after losing his pint at the start of the fight, curled up. United threw a few kicks at his opponent, who. He was then punching down, hard, onto his opponent’s head, throwing a kick to the body for good measure.
Ruffian was lying in the broken glass of his own pint, strangely expressionless, when a third aggressor stepped in with his own half-full pint. He slammed it lengthways over United’s head.
United stood very still for a second, looking more confused than anything. Then blood began to piss down his face, running quickly through the beer.
I left by the front door before the police barged in.
I think this shows that certain people will be dickheads through and through- you’ll never stop them from fighting. But over the last few months, I’ve become more and more amazed that glass hasn’t been completely replaced by plastic across bars nationwide.
Think of the benefits. The situation at the Britannia would still have been violent. At least two people would have needed stitches that night. How many would if the pint pots had been plastic?
A few months ago, somewhere else in the country, an argument had brewed in another boozer. The doormen booted out the offending toerag, who was still pint-in-hand. He launched the glass pot back through the doorway out of spite. It smashed into the bar, a shard landing in the neck of a by-standing drinker. The bystander bled to death before the ambulance got to the scene. The man who threw the pint was behind bars within a few weeks. Suffice to say, if all the glasses had been plastic, that man would still be alive.
Aside from how comparatively lethal glass is, a plastic alternative would be a benefit to both sides of the bar. A pint of beer gets warm and flat because glass is a conductor. Plastic is not. With plastic, you can enjoy your drink for longer.
Behind every bar, there’s a glasswash machine. These give you shiny, clean pint glasses in a matter of seconds- using scalding hot water. Bar staff have to wait for glasses to cool down before they using them again- firstly because of handling, and secondly because a warm glass makes a flat pint. On a busy Saturday night, remember, time is of the essence.
Plastic would speed up this process.
Plastic is also lighter. Glass collectors will benefit here, as they are the ones hauling these- in their hundreds- from the main bar back to the glass wash room.
Everyone makes mistakes, especially when drunk. People drop pints, miss tables, bump into people, kick empties off podiums and step on wine glasses with high heels. These broken glasses need sweeping up fast, for safety reasons. The chances of you falling over and cutting yourself on broken plastic… well, it’s possible, but not likely.
It’s such an obviously good idea to switch to plastic, nationally. Yet the only places I’ve seen doing this were Manchester student bars, years ago. Ironically, it never kicked off in these places.
I think some managers have a “glass is class” mentality, and that by switching to plastic their punters would think the bar is cheap or tacky, or that they aren’t trusted not to smash glasses over each other’s heads. Which might be the case.
That’s why it’s down to the government to enforce a rule to keep glass out of bars. The bars won’t do it themselves. The country spends £100 million a year on glass-related violence, says the BBC. There have been “fresh calls” recently to make the change to plastic, but nothing is going through parliament. Why not?
Someone should start a Facebook group. Let’s once again remind the government what they need to do here. If we can get a decent number of people involved, we can perhaps get an MP on the case. Then we can get the problem swept up.