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Plastic un-fantastic

Jonathan Schofield finds that plastic glasses outside venues might soon start to disappear

Written by . Published on June 28th 2007.

Plastic un-fantastic

In a brief glimpse of sunshine the other day I sat with some French guests on a pavement terrace in town and drank some wine. “What’s this?” said one of the guests. “It’s a Merlot,” I said. “No, this plastic…thing,” said the Frenchman, “it makes the drink taste terrible.”

He was right of course: plastic glasses are horrible both to drink from and look at. They’re an aesthetic disaster all round: an imposition on our enjoyment of a drink.

Plastic glasses are horrible both to drink from and look at. They’re an aesthetic disaster all round: an imposition on our enjoyment of a drink.

They're hard to justify too. After a pleasant day in which Manchester had impressed with its buildings, shops and food, I had to explain that it was deemed necessary for ordinary Britons to be considered threats when sat outside taking a drink. That the authorities worry we might turn into ‘glassing’ thugs at an outdoor sniff of alcohol.

You could see the French thinking about that for a moment, thinking this willmake a great story when we get home, “the violent rosbifs of Manchester.”

Then they did what their nation does best and deconstructed the illogic of the idea. Let me paraphrase their points. “Where does this finish? If glasses and bottles are dangerous, then so are chairs, tables, knives and forks. And why not ban glass inside bars or even just ban people drinking at all. Unless you all go mad with beer it seems that you’re punishing everybody for the actions of a few idiots. You've picked the wrong target this is a policing issue and nothing to do with what you drink out of.”

And then they hit the nail on the head, it felt like my head. “And it makes no sense to ban every establishment having plastic glasses outside. Nor for the ban to extend all day. Only venues or areas with a record of such violence should have the ban.”

It was embarrassing. Trying to explain the historical reasons for this was worse: how a few tragic incidents had created a panic through which ill-conceived local measures had been adopted. Nor does the notion that we can’t trust ourselves not to glass our guests fit with the way the city is promoting itself as an urbane tourist destination.

So ashamed, but armed with indignation and a series of infallible arguments from the nation of Descartes I called Phil Burke, the Press and Publicity spokesperson for Manchester’s Pub and Club network. And this was just going to be the beginning. Then it would be the turn of the Council, the Police and any innocent passers-by.

Within five minutes Phil Burke took the wind out of my sails, stole my thunder and caused me to mix my metaphors.

“Well, that was one of number of provisions taken a few years back after a series of violent attacks,” he calmly said. “These have resulted in an improved record over alcohol related incidents in the city centre. We now recognise that there are a lot more Continental-style restaurants and also bars and pubs with good management and procedures to deal with problems. We have initiatives in place – such as the top ten list of best managed venues that have given people an incentive to look after their establishments properly.

“In otherwords,” Burke pointed out. “things have moved on, people are more responsible and we have a duty to provide a good experience to international and European visitors. Our members, the police and the Council now understand that if a venue wants to serve drinks in glasses on pavement terraces they should have the right to do so. There’ll be a meeting shortly, before summer’s out, which will allow licensees, if they have a good record, to bring back the use of glass outside.”

Common-sense is about to break out it seems. And these are not trivial issues. Plastic glasses are part of a bigger concern. It’s an example of how in the current political climate prudence has become an excuse for interference. Like so much recent local and national legislation it was rushed in under a pretext of protecting people. But, as with identity cards, it does no such thing and is defeated by the logic with which it was created.

And then just as I was basking in this return to common-sense, Phil Burke ruined it. Apparently there’s another provision whereby tables and chairs aren’t allowed out on pavements after 11pm. Er…why? Phil didn’t know, nobody does. It’s a just a local regulation that seemingly arrived out of the blue to stop something or other. Time to make some more phone calls perhaps.

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26 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

PinkpuffJune 28th 2007.

I drink at AXM bar on canal street and I hate the fact we have to drink out of plastic cups just to sit outside.It's even worse when I take my ex out and he order's a dirty martini extra dirty, do you gat a martini glass no you get a half pint plastic glass not bad for the price you pay plus it so elegant.

GavJune 28th 2007.

Absolutely.Where in Manchester can you eat or drink outside on a nice summers day or into the evening? Just about no-where, it's rubbish. The only place is Sinclairs - we need some more pavement cafe's, fill St. Annes Square with cafe's, it would be much nicer. I've got a real bee in my bonnet about this. It's nice to be able to sit outside, and we just can't - virtually no-where in the northern quarter, for instance.

KellyJune 28th 2007.

I agree we need more places to sit outside for a drink, as I always end up in Sinclair's as well. However, possibly due to EVERYONE heading to Sinclair's as the only open-air venue, I have on every occasion I've been there witnessed anti-social behaviour, pushing, fights, etc which makes me glad of the plastic glasses. They've also banned steak knives outside at the Wellington next door, and to be honest, I care more about my safety than being able to sip wine from a proper glass. It may be a rare event now but I don't want to be on the receiving end of a badly-thrown pint glass the 'one' time it does happen. They use plastic cups in the Village as well -- and I feel safer there than just about anywhere!

smile awhileJune 28th 2007.

I read the article about PLASTIC GLASSES,totally agree with the French Tourists,same tale because of a few idiots who have know idea how one should behave in a public places, all pay the price .However most people do conduct themselves reasonably well but still have to tolarate kiddie cups, This is a great expedition for our group who often like a Saterday Afternoon out and about .But the minute we spot a bar or cafe serving in PLASSTIC CUPS WE goHOME>

vixJune 28th 2007.

harsh character assassination Al! Im just looking at it from the safety aspect, what damage can be done with plasitc, other than it offends your delicate palate!!?

johnJune 28th 2007.

Im confused - does this mean you cant get smashed in the face with a glass INDOORS?

SupamingJune 28th 2007.

Let me get this straight.Some French guy, who eats frogs, snails and dog poo, won't drink wine from a plastic cup. Maybe the EU should subsidise his drink, afterall, as anyone from Manchester knows, there's no tastier drink than a free one.

stejaskiJune 28th 2007.

Sinclairs the only place to drink outside? Er, what about Toms chop House, Bacchanalia, Zinc, not to mention the WHOLE of Canal Street?

SupamingJune 28th 2007.

I wonder how many of these outdoor plastic cups will find their way back to a bin? I'm guessing the majority will end up floating down the canal, along with the turds. Maybe the assylum seekers could collect and recycle them, instead of cleaning my windscreen at traffic lights. Anyone else noticed a growing trend in headscalfed screen-washers?

Mickey GJune 28th 2007.

All agreed guys.... Alfresco is the future and Manchester is lagging behind. This going to become even more evident once the smoking ban comes in. The street corners will be littered with revelers!I know the feeling of trying to entertain our Friends from across the Channel when surrounded by weekend bingers. Binge drinking has only caught on in Paris over the last few years, so Provincial folk will still be astonished that some "Les Rosbifs" behave so badly after a few scoops.Not sure if I should divulge my favorite out door spots in case I never get a table there again! But here goes: Not too fancy but functional, try the upstairs roof garden at Pure Space or the "Juliet" Balcony at Trof - Northern Quarter.Other than that, most of the new places in Chorlton have out door areas. Not so new but Mink being my fav.Mickey

Al JamesJune 28th 2007.

Vix clearly you don't like the finer things in life. Maybe you'd like to eat a £20 main course out of chip paper. Learn a little bit about flavours and then you'd see why a good win or ale in a plastic glass is crap....

Caroline, Whalley RangeJune 28th 2007.

How about the beer garden at Dukes? Not a plastic glass in sight and the atmosphere is great.

vixJune 28th 2007.

oh my god, i cant believe there is an article on this! Its just a vessel out of which to drink your drink, what does it matter that its not made of glass? In the words of Tracey "deal with it"!

markJune 28th 2007.

if you want to sit out side and drink in glass, kro2 and krobar both on oxford road have fantastic beer gardens, and because they are on private land there are no restrictions with glass or bottles,

lost jonnyJune 28th 2007.

I fully agree with the French people. I do not enjoy a drink from a plastic glass, and I resent the fact that, outside, I am made to use one, due to the vicious antics of certain individuals who cannot control their drink or their tempers. The sooner the UK stops creating disamenity for all due to the irresponsibility of a very small minority, the sooner I will stop my increasing urgent preparations to leave this inanely governed island.

pat karneyJune 28th 2007.

I am reviewing this situation.

johnJune 28th 2007.

lost jonny, with a vocabulary like that, there's no place for you in the UK -)

aceJune 28th 2007.

you can sit ouside odd bar on 3.5 seats. I got a beer there and sat outside. i was immediately set upon by a waitress and had it poured from my nice Leffe glass into a sweaty plastic glass.. I left it.

AnonymousJune 28th 2007.

you can sit out side, bluu, northern quarter restaurant and simple , and they dont use plastic even tho they should really

PaulJune 28th 2007.

Surely in the 21 st century we can make a pot that will not harm anyone but yet dose not make your drink taste like you drank it out of an aldi bag

rogerJune 28th 2007.

It's far more acceptable to be glassed indoors..

AnonymousJune 28th 2007.

I work in a restaurant in town with an outdoor terrance and agree completely that the plastics thing is a load of rubbish! especially with the smoking ban coming in, people with have to keep swopping from plastic to glass...what a ball ache!

iain scottJune 28th 2007.

Manchester aspires to be a continental,cosmopolitan city, which increasingly caters to visitors.I magine then that we must serve them quality drinks(wine/champagne/cocktails, etc)in PLASTIC!!We all, of course, want our city to be safe for all who use it, but why must the majority of its users be treated prejudicially?? We ALL need to apply some common sense,and work out a system that is aesthetically pleasing and safe for all.

AnonymousJune 28th 2007.

it doesnt affect the flavour at all, its all in the mind, but i guess, that still provides fuel to the anti plastic cup fire. but still...im not complaining, id rathr a plastic cup to my head than a glass, and i steer clearof places with plastic cups. if i want to drink outside, i go britons in their walled garden which allows glasses, or chorlton or fallowfield. ive no memories of plastic cups at rampant lion, which has the best beer gardne in machester, nor at friendship inn, or the balcony at trof in fallowfield or northern quarter. and you wouldnt buy a fancy wine when you know your going to get a plastic cup anyway, so i say, stop moaning and if you go somewhere where you know there are plastic cups, then eat inside, or go somewhere else

NHJune 28th 2007.

What about Rain Bar - another good summer venue. I suggest Manc Confifential come up with a top 10 of outside drinking establishments as the weather is so good(!). It often hard to find good ones....

DebbieJune 28th 2007.

Northern Quarter Restaurant and Bar has excellent outdoor facilities, especially when motorists park on the road and not on the pavement.

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