by Claire Hu Stella Artois has become the latest brand to launch a new plastic bottle to the on-trade, in response to the increasing likelihood of a glass ban by councils. Interbrew says it is responding to a new trend away from glass with the release this week of a 330ml plastic bottle incorporating the Stella Artois crown, paper neck label and front and back label. The pack, which will be available to the on-trade only in 24-bottle cartons, will be targeted at late-night venues and outside events in a bid to help reduce assaults and injuries. Mike Lees, managing director of Tennent Caledonian Breweries, said: "Stella Artois is the most popular premium lager brand so there is a need to make it available in every format including PET [polyethylene terephthalate]. "This is particularly important now at a time when a growing number of local authorities are imposing restrictions on the use of glass in licensed premises." Despite concerns that plastic can taint taste and projects a downmarket image, Lees believes Stella drinkers would adapt to the new packaging. "Our research shows that glass wins over plastic every time. However, if the option is between a plastic pint pot or plastic bottle, consumers overwhelmingly prefer the latter option," he said. Under the Licensing Act, councils will be able to force individual pubs to go glass-free to prevent crime and disorder. Although they are not permitted to impose blanket bans for whole areas, councils such as Sheffield have already indicated they will encourage the use of toughened plastic glasses in pubs and clubs. Voluntary schemes between police and councils have already been established. Mark Hastings, of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: "Whilst it may be appropriate to have a condition for a specific venue, using plastic could run contrary to the aims of the beer image campaign. If there are serious crime issues at a venue, that venue should be closed down." Customers and staff think plastic's fantastic at glass-free club A new glass-free nightclub has been a resounding success with customers and staff in the first three months of trading, according to its owner. The Cave, in Chelmsford, Essex, agreed with local police to sell all alcohol in plastic glasses and bottles when it opened in December last year. It does not sell draught beer. Owner Joe Ferrari said there were "no downsides" to the policy. "The delivery people love it because it's half the weight, and my staff don't have to worry about breakages if they drop something," he said. "The security staff love it because they don't have to worry about getting hit in the face with a bottle." He said feedback from customers had been very positive. "All the customers have said they think it's a great idea because of the security aspect," said Ferrari. "In other clubs in town like big towns all over the country it is not uncommon for people to get glassed. "But here, if a fight breaks out, there are no weapons to use. There's no broken glass to worry about, and we even have girls take off their stilettos and dance barefoot." The club pays £150 per ton to have the plastic recycled, but it has not yet reached the full weight of empty bottles. Ferrari added: "I think the council will want everyone to do it here. I don't think plastic will work everywhere, like country pubs, but it really is the future for town-centre venues.