Tychy has never set foot in the Grapes, an “old man’s pub” on Clerk Street, because I like pretty girls and pleasant company. Whenever I walk past the pub, the first thing that comes to mind is: “that could do with a lick of paint.” The Grapes looks so dusty that my lungs would most likely shrivel up and die in its thick air. Each of the sour old patrons smoking in the doorway twinkles with the Evil Eye. Everybody is over a hundred and if a Tyrannosaurus Rex ever wandered into Edinburgh, it would probably feel most at home drinking in the Grapes.
Despite randomly banning “under-25s” from entry (perhaps they would raise too many eyebrows with “under-50s”), the Grapes is apparently a hive of “Anti-Social Behaviour.” According to last Friday’s Edinburgh Evening News, the pub had lost its early-opening drinking license in April, after “a catalogue of incidents, including the stabbing of one patron with a screwdriver” and Wild-West scenes in which the patrons intimidated licensing officials and “prevented the officers from carrying out their duty.”
The planet of the Grapes has since come under new management, and last week the Council allowed the pub to resume opening at 9am on a “trial” basis, despite protests from the police. The pub is still forced to close at a party-pooping 11pm. The police have claimed, not wholly plausibly, that (in the words of the EEN) “the situation had improved in recent months, but that this was down to the restricted hours and not new management.”
I think we have established that it is easy to poke fun out of the Grapes, but a bunch of forlorn old people should surely have the liberty to drink in their dismal pub at 9 in the morning, without the state turning up to regulate everything and annoy everybody. I am the sort of libertarian who does not honestly care if alcohol is served to children, but in the case of The Grapes, lively anecdotes about “incidents” at the pub seem to trump evidence of real criminality. Nobody appears to have been charged for that poke with a screwdriver, for example, so the story may be apocryphal.
The aimless investigations and interminable messing about at the Grapes provides an example of what happens when a council tries to implement the absurd Licensing (Scotland) Act 2005, a magnum opus of harebrained authoritarianism. Amongst the things banned by the Act include selling alcohol “to a person who is drunk” and using “obscene or indecent language” in licensed premises. If there were not so many rules in the Act, they could probably find one which prohibited telling a council official to fuck off.