The last time I got barred from a pub was a real doozy. I was seeing my friends in a countryside village, at a quaint pub called The Angel. So far, so Last of the Summer Wine. I'd had a few pints and was soaking up the good-natured rural atmosphere when I decided to really kick things into 12th gear by cracking open a gram of ketamine, laying it across a beer garden table, and cutting it out into lines.
The landlady came out to collect some glasses and obviously couldn't quite believe a wild-eyed goon (me) was doing lines of fluffy white stuff all over her lovely wooden benches. She promptly began to lose her shit, screaming about the police, the constitution of my morals, letting me know that I was never allowed back in the establishment and so on.
It wasn't the sweetest encounter, but I've not really been barred from too many places other than that. I've been kicked out of all manner of pubs, clubs, and bars, but to get barred for life feels like a true expression of the art of pissing people off.
Now that Fabric's due to is reopen with punitive measures for anything remotely narcotics-related—boo!—including lifetime bans for being caught just asking for drugs, we've entered the next stage of strict licensing laws and barrings.
But away from superclubs, there are a few staples reasons I've found that are common for barring punters. "Being a dick would be top of my list," says Terri, 33, bar manager at London pub The White Hart, "then dealing, being rude to staff and customers, grabbing bar staff—especially female—fighting, minesweeping, begging, and getting caught with drugs."
Fellow bar manager Caspar, 24, from The Kennington largely agrees on what sort of behavior warrants a full-on bar. "Fighting, stealing shit, being a general cunt. Drugs I haven't really cared about in most venues I've worked in, but the one thing I would always just love barring people for is harassing staff or other customers."
So it seems like most of the time if you are an asshole you will get barred. Which makes sense: assholes are generally bad for business. But there are some more creative ways to get barred too, beyond just being abrasive. Take Claire's story.
"I got caught peeing on the carpet in a club in Great Yarmouth while smoking a cigarette," she says. "It was funny, I just squatted over with my underwear round my ankles inside this place and—bam—in walks an ambulance lady and a bouncer. Everyone I was with hasn't been allowed back in since."
Speaking to a other punters, their barrings were sometimes a result of fairly unusual moments, perhaps when visiting friends in another town, or in a random club or bar they'd just stumbled upon in a stupor. Barrings can often be freak flashes of behavior mixed with a spot of overindulgence, making you perhaps wilder than usual.
Charles, 28, remembers such a time: "I got barred from this Jamaican bar in Oxford at my mate's university, for doing a Morrissey impression with some flowers I found. It enraged a woman working there who insisted I pay for them. I was pretty pissed so we had a big argument. She then called the police and the landlord, her husband, who told us all to leave before the police got there. Turned out people said he'd been in trouble earlier that year for attacking a student with a hacksaw, so we were glad we couldn't go back."
But although there were a few punters I talked to who were barred in faraway lands or random situations, I wanted to know about your meat-and-veg barrings. It can't all be pissed students and coke dealers. "Sports dudes," says Caspar. "Cricket guys are the worst. They get so smashed by like 3PM and then come in and are the rudest people and just leave a fucking wake of destruction."
It does seem like perhaps regulars got off more lightly than strangers with bar managers. "Your regulars will misbehave, so you bar them," Terry says, "but then eventually let them back in on good behavior." Caspar tells me that he'd "let them off for most stuff, because they are normally just be a bit weird, not wankers."
Once people are barred it's then the bouncer's job to keep them that way, but I found it disconcerting that staff would recognize my face afterwards when they might see anything from 200 to 3000 faces per night. Ben, 28, knows the feeling too.
"I was thrown out of a Wetherspoons for arguing with a bouncer over how drunk my friend was. I then was kicked out when attempting to re-enter half-an-hour later, sans coat and jacket. A week later I managed to go back again before the same bouncer spotted me a second time. My friends were thrown out the same night for being associated with me. Our ban is still in effect."
From speaking to Caspar and Terri I learn most pubs have pictures, CCTV stills, and polaroids on their office walls that they make the bouncers study to keep them informed of who they shouldn't be letting in and who bar staff shouldn't be serving. South London pub the Half Moon apparently has a list of barred people called things like "One Armed Keith," and "The Ginger Drunk Twat Called Angus." Handy to keep bouncers' memories fresh.
It's a bit of a Great British tradition to be barred from a pub. It's a social law that nearly everyone follows and respects, rarely needing police involvement once implemented. In our drinking spaces we behave like fucking clowns but simultaneously respect the amber-lit confines of our public houses.
Pubs and bars don't really need the draconian measures that Fabric are having to implement because there's still is a semblance of tradition attached to them. People still want to keep some things away from council, police and ultimately government concern, to retain some feeling of communal, societal law, however slight, in our own hands.
And barring drunk twats like me from your pub is still a great way to exercise that feeling.
By Tom Usher - Vice/Dec. 4, 2016
Illustrations: Alex Jenkins
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