You're barred - you're not seedy enough

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The Independent Online
A PINT and a packet of peanuts on a Friday night isn't enough for Britain's Middle Youth, it seems. What people between the ages of 25 and 40 really want is a darkened, rock-pulsating room, where punters swig beer from cans as they writhe trouserless on the bar. Sounds seedy? The seedier the better.

Or so Denis Blais, co-founder of Belgo, the London-based moules-et-frites chain, believes. The entrepreneur has joined up with a friend, Steve Switzman, to launch a new bar concept called Can. The pair's first "designer-seedy" bar, selling everything from beer to foie gras, inflatable goldfish and edible knickers - in a can - is due to open in October in a dimly lit, table-less, former butcher's shop in London's Smithfield.

Its centrepiece, Mr Switzman said, will be a specially-built transparent tube into which punters throw their empty beer cans. After being "sucked" into the tube, the cans will traverse the bar before ending up in a large recycling bin behind a huge glass window in the lavatories. An illuminated sign will clock up the number of cans drunk - "Hopefully we will reach the stage where it says 'Five billion beers sucked'," Mr Switzman said.

To the 33-year-old former marketing executive from America, this is all "great fun". "Can is going to be a no-holds-barred party bar. We want to encourage people to do what they want to do - which is hard drinking," Mr Switzman said.

Food will be minimal. (Food only lines the stomach and sops up the alcohol.) But there will be canned party items: branded bras, water pistols and flavoured condoms, to name but a few. "We will be selling things that will add to the party atmosphere," Mr Switzman said.

Mr Blais prefers to call the novelty goods "cheap tricks", essential to creating a seedy atmosphere. "The seediness is an anti-design. It's the atmosphere that will make it a little more seedy than a really trendy design."

His concern is that, in its raw stage, Can is not quite as seedy as he had hoped for. "It needs to be made a bit dirtier. It needs to be designed- down a little. Maybe my seedy past will help.

"In North America and in lots of European countries you drink from cans and I have always liked this. You break barriers when you drink from a can." He added that Can, "a cross between a Polish milk bar and a Seven- Eleven" store, had been a long-term ambition.

When punters have drunk as much beer as they can, squirted their mates with water pistols and eaten each others' edible knickers, they will be expected to get on the bar and dance. "People are actually going to be encouraged to dance on the bar," Mr Switzman said. "At the moment people go to bars like the Pitcher and Piano and All Bar One - they get in there at 10pm and nothing happens. We are going to take it to the next extreme. I think it's a natural extension."

Both men agree that the drinking scene in London is limited for the 25- 40 age group: there is not enough rock music, the behaviour isn't bad enough and people just aren't having fun. Mr Blais, 37, said: "There is something missing for people in bars in London. I don't go in bars anymore. You don't get a chance to hear any good music and they are very cliquey. This is more of a really fun project."

Punters pulling down their trousers - or skirts - on the bar will be considered seedy enough to be fun, although the management will not look kindly on drinkers who step over the line of decency and remove their boxer shorts.

But do men behaving badly know at which point "fun" turns into debauchery? And what if a "seedy" bar turns into a "sordid" one? "That is a risk we run," said Mr Switzman.

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