With the Glasgow licensing board looking to introduce plastic glasses in all licensed premises, is the rest of the UK next? By Adam Withrington.
In the world of pub violence, the glass is often the yob's weapon of choice. Remember the scene in the film Trainspotting when moustachioed Scottish psycho Begbie lobbed his pint glass over a pub balcony onto a woman's head?
However, "glassings" only really occur in overly drunken and aggressive atmospheres - not what you find in your average well-run pub. But the Glasgow licensing board would beg to differ. It has stated its intention to cut down on late-night alcohol-fuelled violence by introducing plastic glasses into every licensed premises.
The trade in Scotland is baffled. Particularly as the industry and authorities have already agreed that a no-glass policy should be enforced in "appropriate premises", such as late-night bars and large pubs.
The convenor of Glasgow's licensing board, councillor Gordon Macdiarmid, shocked the trade by announcing he wanted a widespread ban. He stated: "It is ultimately our objective to see a glass-free environment in all licensed premises in the city."
Drink a pint of premium ale from a plastic pint glass? Have some nicely chilled chardonnay from a plastic wine glass? The idea is unpopular with both pubs and public alike. It ruins both the taste and atmosphere, they say.
The trouble for the trade in England is that once local authorities gain control of licensing in 2005, thanks to the Licensing Act 2003, they could introduce similar rules. Worryingly there is interest in the idea, following escalating disorder in town centres across the UK.
Dyfed-Powys police in Wales, which covers Aberystwyth, last week reported there had been a rise in violent crime in the town centre, with glass bottles being used as weapons. The police now want to invoke a law that will allow them to seize all such containers.
However, despite rising crime figures, any council in England attempting to enforce a "no-glass" ban would be making a rash decision.
- Eugene McCoy, licensee of the Buckingham Arms in Westminster, London:
"If anyone tried to introduce this rule in my pub I'd leave the trade immediately. I've been in the industry all my life, but I couldn't handle that."
A Wetherspoon employee from Reading, drinking in the Garrick Arms, Leicester Square, London:
"I see a huge amount of trouble in Reading between 11pm and 12am, but no glassings. If someone wants to cause trouble they will do it, glass or no glass. Introduce staggered closing times, so everyone leaves pubs and bars at
different times. Now that'd make a difference."
Dean Temple, licensee, saw a lot of glassings in his old Woolwich pub:
"A ban would never work in safe premises and it didn't work in my Woolwich pub. One night a bloke picked up a plastic glass and ashtray, and said they were useless. So he picked up a can, tore it in half and sliced a guy's face up."
Kareen Plympton, licensing officer for Brighton and East Sussex:
"At the moment using plastic or shatter-proof glasses is a condition on public entertainment licences for late-night city centre premises or large pubs. We are trying to put pressure on more operators to use plastic, and I hope to see the practice spread where appropriate.
"We have had clear figures from accident and emergency departments in Brighton and Hove that show that injuries in premises that use plastic receptacles have gone down. It is important for the safety of the licensee and their staff as well."
Mark Hastings, spokesman for the British Beer & Pub Association:
"I'm sure the producers of the finest French claret will be scratching their heads about how they will put their wine into plastic bottles, to be served in plastic glasses in the best restaurants in Glasgow. This is a very small-scale problem. We should focus instead on yobs who are using glass as a weapon."
- Jane Osbourne, teacher, drinking in the Red Lion, Whitehall:
"If this is where we have got to, then I feel very sorry for some publicans. It is a sad indictment of the industry if this legislation is imposed."
Mark Renouf, works for BBC television, drinking in Red Lion, Whitehall:
"There are some people who go out drinking to get smashed and I don't think they will care about that rule being introduced. However, there are people who go there because it's a social occasion where they can chat to their friends. If you see a drink is served in plastic you expect it to be a substandard drink."
Matt Rouse, musician, drinking in the Buckingham Arms, Westminster:
"Plastic is all right for a garden fête. If you go to the pub and drink from a plastic glass you may as well be drinking from a can. If you do that you may as well be drinking at home. It tastes very different in a plastic glass. It's just not as tasty."
Drink suppliers reaction
- Peter Kendall, Coors Brewers chief executive:
"We have substantial experience of substituting plastic bottles for glass, being the first major British brewer to introduce polyethylene terephthalate bottles for the on-trade.
"With the benefit of this experience, our position on the proposed campaign would be to support it, but only in those outlets which really require it and only as a measure to complement other solutions including enforcement of existing laws."
The Publican says...
The argument that plastic glasses should be used for late-night premises and that quiet pubs be left alone is a strong one.
However, where do you draw the line? The idea that it is safer for the licensee and staff to use shatter-proof material applies everywhere.
Any premises, big or small, back street or high street could house a violent incident, and no pub is immune to drunken idiots.
The authorities should try and tackle the issue from another angle, such as continuing to crack down on irresponsible drinks promotions.
Assaults involving glass, which can leave victims scarred for life. should be met with severe punishments.
By Adam Withrington