Local authorities across London are increasingly placing conditions on licences or encouraging late-night operators to voluntarily become glass-free, in a fresh crackdown that it’s feared will become national.
'Increase in action'
Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, said that she has noticed “an increase in action” by police, who are looking to promote polycarbonate containers in venues.
“The anecdotal information we have is that the police are requesting this quite firmly,” she told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.
“There’s a time and a place for polycarbonates and certainly if there have been issues with a venue there may be a case for it, but we are fundamentally opposed to a blanket ban.”
In Islington, north London, approximately 10 to 15 licensed premises have “no glass” licence conditions. Hackney and Westminster Councils also said that the practice is encouraged and sometimes enforced.
A Westminster Council spokesperson said: “Increasingly, late-night venues and venues where there is drinking outside use plastic.”
Egg London, a late-night bar near King’s Cross in the north, was forced to become glass-free by Islington Council three years ago, but general manager Spencer Wyatt said authorities are now “coming down a hell of a lot” and he expects most clubs in the capital will “go polycarbonate” by the end of 2014.
He added that staff in glass-free venues must decant drinks into a plastic container, which will drastically affect trade, especially where customers pay for table service.
'It's like a urine bottle'
“The whole point of buying a table is getting your drink brought over in the bottle and other people seeing what you’re drinking. Now staff need to decant that bottle into a polycarbonate container that looks like something you get from hospital — it’s like a urine bottle — when the customer has paid an absolute fortune.”
There is also an added expense in going glass-free, as drinks packaged in aluminium cost more to stock and polycarbonate has a shorter lifespan than glass.
The Ministry of Sound nightclub in Elephant & Castle, south-east London, said that it recently volunteered to become a glass-free venue, “ahead of what will be a national change”.
Richard Horwell from Ibiza Ice, a drinks brand using only aluminium bottles, said he was “shocked” to hear that venues started stocking his product after they were told they had to be glass-free if they wished to continue having a 24-hour licence.