Will Buckland at City wine bar Planet of the Grapes remembers a ‘special day’ and the wide boy who wouldn’t be denied…
Do you sell cigarettes behind the bar?’ asked a particularly dislikeable chap who’d been singing the Beastie Boys’ ‘Fight For Your Right To Party’ and swearing at the top of his voice all afternoon. ‘I’m afraid not,’ I replied, ‘you’ll have to go to the pub over the road.’ But it didn’t seem to register.
‘Do you sell any type of tobacco at all?’ he asked. I explained again. He looked at the floor and back up at me. ‘OK then, do you sell ATTITUDE?’ he barked. ‘Because it seems there’s a lot of it flying around from you.’ Attitude? I didn’t really know what to say. My customer filled the silence: ‘Don’t you get it? Today is a special day. Oh, and we’ll have another bottle please.’
The special day in question was a normal April Wednesday to most of us, but because of the G20 protestors invading the City, a lot of workers had knocked off early and were getting drunk. I’d reached the end of my tether with Mr ‘Attitude’ and his pals by this point, after some pretty bad behaviour.
My first encounter with the group was when an older bloke, who could’ve been Mr Attitude’s boss, came in alone. I served him a bottle of Sancerre with four glasses and he promptly walked out. He’d paid, but obviously not for the glassware, so I wandered out to find him, and there he was, outside a pub across the road with three colleagues, drinking the wine.
I asked, politely, what he was doing. ‘They’re not serving in the pub any more,’ was his explanation, as if this made it all right. The pub was indeed closed – as a precaution, the police had shut anywhere serving pints – but I still needed the glasses back. Eventually the guy gave me a £40 cash deposit and I went back to the bar.
Half an hour later the four of them came in and carried on drinking. They were certainly living up to the City wide-boy stereotype, each trying to out-swear and out-shout the others. After a further bottle, the loudest one went behind the bar looking for wine, and at that point I had to have a word with him about his behaviour.
He nodded and rejoined his table, but five minutes later was yelling down his phone again. I went over. ‘Honestly, guys, I’ve told you three times now,’ I said. The last thing I wanted to do was chuck people out, but shouting and singing really isn’t on.
They were still misbehaving 20 minutes later when the ringleader came to the bar and made his enquiry about our stock of Attitude. I’d had enough: ‘Listen chaps, you need to pay this bill and leave.’ So Mr Attitude studied the bill – for £55 – and gave me £30. I asked for the rest. ‘We didn’t have two bottles!’ he insisted, but I wasn’t getting into an argument. Eventually the bill was settled, but Mr Attitude still wasn’t done: ‘We’ll have another bottle, thanks.’
‘I’m afraid not,’ I replied.
‘OK, fine! We’ll have it on the house!’
‘No you won’t.’
‘Why not?’ he asked – another argument I wasn’t starting. Thankfully, the older guy took his younger colleague outside, then a while later came back in, apologised and left a cash tip. ‘These guys don’t get told when they’ve crossed the line,’ he explained. It was a nice touch, and a small amount of convention in an otherwise anarchic day.
As told to Sam Walton.
Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine – September / October 2009