It was the mid 1980s, police corruption was rife and the streets of Kings Cross were awash with cocaine. Just outside the legendary rock venue The Manzil Room a couple of young lads were observed – their bodies crouched over, with straws up their noses, attempting to snort a white powdery substance from a large crack in the pavement. The story is largely apocryphal but it appears they had dropped their ‘deal’ and with a couple of straws from a local convenience shop they were doing their very best to retrieve it.
We recall the story in light of the recent forced closure of the Imperial Hotel in Erskineville, pending a licence review in the coming weeks. The ban came after various breaches of the liquor act, and one of the more curious incidents listed was a patron ‘slurping’ spilt alcohol from the floor of the pub. Whether it was a glass of expensive French cognac or just a schooner of VB that hit the deck remains to be clarified, but apparently imbibing without a regulatory glass is simply not kosher. Had the offender employed the straw technique, as in the above anecdote, the misdemeanour may well have been overlooked.
These days with the strict enforcement of RSA (the responsible serving of alcohol), the opportunity for patrons to behave badly in the pub environment has been greatly diminished. Even raising your glass in a jovial toast might be viewed as a portent of impending inebriation, let alone a breach of OHS regulations should it suddenly slip from your hand.
We have certainly come a long way since the hedonistic days of the 1980s where venues such as the Petersham Hotel offered “free beer for nudes” and patrons at a rock gig actually disrobed (yes, the full Monty) to grab a free middy of beer at the bar. This was the halcyon era of Aussie pub rock, where punters regularly drank themselves into a stupor and venues had little respect for the number of bodies they were licenced to house.
In 2015 most hotel patrons would be aware they are under a certain degree of scrutiny from the very moment they enter a venue – be it from surveillance cameras, the vigilant eye of security staff or simply the unwritten rules of sociable behaviour that come with entering the current gentrified environments.
If you long for the more laissez faire days of a bygone era, when you could still slurp a drink off the bar room floor and wield your schooner glass like a tennis racquet, then there is little opportunity for you these days. It appears the Imperial was very much a maverick in the current climate where most venues see self-regulation as the easiest and least costly means of keeping the licensing authorities at bay.
There is however a certain Bukowski-esque romance in the idea of the bar room slurpee, an unholy reverence for alcohol where even the discarded drop is considered sacrosanct, to be sucked like the very elixir of life itself, from the grimy tiles of the hotel floor. Then again, many of today’s pubs and clubs are fully carpeted and unless you want your very own furball, we genuinely suggest you drink your booze from a glass!
With Coffin Ed, Jay Katz and Miss Death