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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

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Wednesday, 25 June 2008

24 hour drinking: the truth

Who's calling me a twat?
To Camden last night, to see My Bloody Valentine.

"Hey Pete, was it a good gig?"

PARDON?

"I said was it a good gig?"

CAN'T HEAR WHAT YOU'RE SAYING! IT WAS A REALLY GOOD GIG BUT THE TWENTY MINUTE FULL-ON DRONE IN THE FINALE, YOU MADE ME REALISE, WAS SO FULL-ON CONFRONTATIONALLY LOUD IT MADE MY TROUSERS SHAKE, I FEARED A NOSEBLEED, PEOPLE WERE RUNNING FOR THE EXIT HOLDING THEIR EARS, AND THE WHOLE THING HAS LEFT ME A BIT MUTTON!
(If you're feeling like you want to challenge your perceptions of reality, turn the sound on your computer up to FULL and imagine this lasting twenty minutes. This one is not as well shot, but gives a better sense of the PANIC and RAPTURE evoked by the full piece).

Anyway, with our ears ringing, Chris and I, via sign language, decided to go for a swift pint. It was 11.05pm in Camden, one of the most happening, cool parts of Swinging London - sorry, that should have read Swinging London - a city that prides itself on giving New York a run for its money as a fun-filled carnival that never sleeps.

The first six pubs we passed were closed.

Obviously, no restaurants were open. It was a Tuesday night for God's sake! People have to WORK tomorrow! Were we MAD?

Eventually we came to Camden Lock, and The Ice Wharf, a Lloyd's No.1 (Posh Wetherspoons) pub. Stencilled on every window (there are a lot of windows) were the words OPEN TILL MIDNIGHT. Hey, we thought, we're in luck.

On the door of an almost empty pub on a Tuesday night were two black-clad bouncers. They stopped us as we tried to go in.

"Sorry, you're too late," I lipread one of them saying.

"You're open till midnight," I replied.

"No we're not."

"Yes, you are, it says on all the windows, very clearly, open till midnight."

"Yes, but only for people who are already in here."

"It doesn't say that, it says open till midnight."

"Well, it's very late now."

It was 11.18pm.

"I know what time it is. We want one pint and then we want to go home."

"Well, you won't have enough time to finish your drinks."

"Yes we will! Forty minutes for one pint is plenty of time!"

We were sober and reasonable. he really didn;t want to let us in, but eventually he relented. If I wasn't cool enough to get into a Wetherspoons pub then things were clearly looking grim. But I soon realised it was the bouncers, rather than us, who were the fucking twats of the piece.

We got our tasty pints of ale and sat down. At a table near us were four studenty looking lads. OK, they were sharing a big pitcher of WKD, but that's a crime against taste, not a crime against humanity, and anyway, the pub had just served it to them. One lad went to the toilet, and while he was away his mate slid down along the banquette seat they were occupying, till he was half-sitting, half lying back. He wasn't collapsed. His eyes were open. He was carrying on a quiet, lucid conversation with his friends. His feet were not on the seat.

When his friend came back, the recumbent lad sat upright again to allow him to sit down. But the bouncer wasn't far behind. As Toilet Boy sat down, the bouncer told them both to leave. Toilet Boy had "spent too long" in the toilet, and his mate had "been lying down". Against the fact that the lads were not slurring, swearing, or behaving anti-socially in any way whatsoever, these crimes apparently constituted behaviour not befitting a Wetherspoon's pub. The boys were indignant, but not violent, threatening or abusive. They protested, and asked to see the manager. Eventually a boy of about fifteen appeared and claimed that he was the manager. When the lads put their case to him, he refused to listen. His words were "I'm in charge on that side of the bar, he [the bouncer] is on charge on this side. It's nothing to do with me."

Thinsg were clearly about to get nasty, and we moved to the other side of the large, empty, quiet pub, and took a seat next to a young couple. As soon as the bouncer and his mate had finished ejecting the four lads, he came over and threatened the man in the couple with eviction unless he removed his baseball cap. Maybe there's a rule about headgear in Wetherspoons pubs - is it so we can all be surveilled properly as we drink? - but to anyone with even half a brain, this bloke sitting with his girlfriend was about as threatening as Kayo Odejayi in front of goal.

I posted on here recently about how you had to give JD Wetherspoon their due. For all their faults, they really do care about cask ale. But here were Wetherspoons bouncers going out of their way to create an atmosphere of tension and incipient violence, spoiling the night of every single person in the pub, not just those they roamed around picking on. And here was a bar manager in charge of a large Wetherspoons pub saying he had no responsibility whatsoever for the well-being or satisfaction of his customers, admitting that this bouncer, who was clearly out of control, was a law unto himself.

If anyone from Wetherspoons reads this blog - sort yourselves out. Get a sense of perspective. Employ people who are going to stop fights rather than start them, and bar managers with a sense of responsibility to their paying customers. Even better - in situations when bouncers are obviously not necessary, don't have them at all. The boredom turn these small-minded, vicious pricks into the very aggressors they're supposed to be keeping out.

If anyone else is near a Wetherspoons and fancies one quiet, late night drink - I urge you to find somewhere else instead.

We did eventually get another pint at a pub down the road. They allowed us in and served us without comment. They allowed us to drink in the beer garden till 12.30 . When the beer garden closed, they asked us politely to move inside, where we could carry on drinking if we wished. But like most people, we checked the time, and left quietly. There were no bouncers, and there was no anger, aggression, or trouble.

Go figure.


6 comments:

Exmoorjane said...

Very funny opening - took me back to the halcyon days of too-loud gigs (Adrian still suffers terminal deafness from spending far too long in close proximity to amplifiers).
No fan of Wetherspoons here I fear - I think twice about going in at high noon for fear of people looking at me funny or making me eat two for the price of one dodgy curries.
Hey, if you want the 24-hour party lifestyle you need to give up on Camden and come to Somerset -but I think that might be on the cards anyway, no?
btw, would just like to point out re your sidebar that Adrian may 'shoot things' but that doesn't mean he hits them.
Sorry, rambling on in a non-beer specialist kind of way here (though did drink a bit of Beast at The Bridge in Topsham the other day which has to give me a tad of real ale kudos, no?).

Pete said...

Hi Jane!

I reckon I stand more chance of getting a drink after midnight in 24 hour binge drinking Britain in Exmoor rather than London.

And ramble is the essence of a good beery conversation where I come from!

'Real ale kudos' - erm, is there such a thing? ;-)

Tandleman said...

Good post Pete. I think the need to employ bouncers on a Tuesday night is highly questionable. I think the rest speaks for itself.

Sometimes you just think JDW is its own best enemy. It must be filled with incompetents at worst and people with little r no judgement at best, yet it still fills a gap in the market. Doh!!

Jeff Pickthall said...

Surely you've been in a Wetherspoons before? This behaviour is endemic.

I was told that W'Spoons employees are paid to a certain time after which they are working for free - and bosses are forever trying to push that time back - hence the pressure.

That might be a load of bollocks.

al_uk said...

I still remember the time after Barnsley FC's glorious defeat to Ipswich visiting some pub in the west end with me, thee, Chris, my mate Paul (who had just sold his company ofr a million squid, and being barred from a pub as the bouncer had spotted "football colours" on one of us. Combined disposable income of thousands!! and they didn't want our custom...seems things don't change much in London.

wetherspoon blogger 007 said...

A blog for all comments regarding wetherspoons. greatly appreciated if you could post this on your comments board and post a comment about any experiences good or bad with wetherspoons. maybe any suggestions on real ale ? as a company they could do more on the subject of real ale. thankyou

http://wetherspoonblogger007.blogspot.com/