Saturday, May 14, 2005

Anti-social Outdoor Furniture...

Last night Simon Doherty and I went to have a drink at Kitty O'Sheas on Courtenay Place, one of the few Wellington bars which has remained more or less its dingy, democratic self over the years. It's always been a good place to sit and have a few pints of Guiness and argue verbosely about the possibility of a Kantian ethics or the author-character relationship in Martin Amis novels.

Going into the bar we noticed that the pavement outside the bar was empty; the sidewalk chairs and tables were missing. That seemed a little odd, but we didn't think anything further of it as it was a chilly evening anyway. We bought a couple of pints and, after a bit, it was time for a cigarette. This of course now means leaving the bar, and we were starting to walk out the door when the doorman blocked our way and said we couldn't take our drinks outside. The bar has apparently lost its licence for its outside area, which explained the lack of tables and chairs on the sidewalk.

We asked what had happened, and he shrugged. Apparently the bar had to reapply for that aspect of their licence, and it was denied because the outside seating area had reportedly been an "obstruction" or an "anoyance" to passers-by. We struggled to imagine how serious this could have been. The bar had seemingly not been guilty of any major offenses such as repeatedly serving under age drinkers or intoxicated people, or fomenting significant antisocial behaviour, since this should have jeopardised its principal licence.

Was it a question of overly jovial patrons hailing passers-by and making a nuisance of themselves? Again, it's hard to imagine how serious the problem could have been. Courtenay Place on a Friday is a colourful and seedy boardwalk of sloppily drunk people, at times a bit feral occasionally amusing, generally a little depressing. If you don't like it, you avoid it, which these days I mostly do. The part near the Cambridge Tce end where Kittys is located is probably a little more civilzed and adult than the other end; there are fewer teenagers, and Kittys itself tends to attract an elcectic crowd including a mix of international tourists. I struggle to see how people sitting at tables outside one of the more relaxed bars could be a threat or a disturbance amidst the wider ambience.

It also seems unlikely that obstructing the thoroughfare was an issue. Other bars and cafes in the same area have outdoor tables, and the tables at Kittys always left plenty of space for people to go through. If it was a problem, they could always have required the bar to move their tables, rather than banning them.

But, whatever the reason for the heavy-handed ruling, you now can't smoke inside and can't take your drink outside. The doorman , who initially said we would have to leave our drinks on the windowsill and "keep an eye on them" while we were outside, took pity on us and opened the large window. This meant we could sip from our drinks sitting on the windowsill (technically inside) while we had a cigarette in the fresh air.

It was a nice temporary solution, but we still left feeling depressed at the increasing encroachment of regulation which, in the name of the health and morality of the community, seems to be gradually eroding the few simple pleasures we're still permitted to indulge in.

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