Opera fans made to empty bottles amid crackdown on vodka smugglers

Stunned opera fans are told to empty their water bottles before entering auditorium in ‘crazy’ crackdown on vodka smugglers

  • The English National Opera is cracking down on the decanting of vodka and gin
  • Stewards forcing customers with opened bottles to spill contents ‘out on steps’
  • Opera buffs labelled move ‘unnecessary’ and akin to airport security measures
  • Company, housed at the London Coliseum, said smugglers ruined experience

Opera fans visiting one of the country’s leading production companies are being told to empty their water bottles before entering the auditorium in a crackdown on people smuggling in alcohol.

Stewards at the English National Opera (ENO) are forcing customers to spill the contents of their bottles out ‘onto the steps’ amid concerns people are decanting gin and vodka.

The move has not gone down well with some opera buffs, who labelled it ‘unnecessary’ and akin to security measures found at airports.

But the company, which is the resident at the London Coliseum, said customers bringing in alcohol had ‘been an issue’ and had caused ‘disruption to others’.

Stewards at the English National Opera (ENO) are forcing customers to spill the contents of their bottles out ‘onto the steps’ amid concerns people are decanting gin and vodka

Among those to question the protocol was opera fan and musician Calum Kennedy, who labelled it ‘unwelcoming craziness’

Among those to question the protocol was opera fan and musician Calum Kennedy, who labelled it ‘unwelcoming craziness’.

Writing to Stuart Murphy, the ENO’s newly appointed chief executive, he said: ‘Watching ENO stewards making punters empty water bottles across the steps of the Coliseum, rather than allow dangerous H2O into the building.’


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In his reply, Mr Murphy insisted that ‘what’s unwelcoming is people decanting vodka into water bottles and ruining the experience for the majority of our audience’.

Mr Kennedy countered: ‘I find it hard to believe you think I, or any of the bunch of squares I attend opera with, have ever consumed a straight vodka.

Other members of the public questioned if the decision was aimed at driving up profits from drink sales

‘I’m not nearly cool enough for that. Indeed, I’m at Welsh National Opera now. No one is knocking back vodka … and that despite it being War and Peace, perhaps the most appropriate opera for a cheeky stolichnaya.’

However Mr Murphy was unmoved, adding: ‘Sorry it’s a bit annoying but trust me – it would be far more annoying for you to have to witness the alternative.’

In a statement about its policy on its website, the ENO said: ‘We don’t allow any food or drink purchased from outside the theatre to be brought into the building apart from sealed bottled water.

‘If the bottle of water is opened or partially full, we will ask you to empty it or drink it outside.

‘This is to prevent people bringing in alcohol, which has been an issue and breaks the terms of our licence and can cause disruption to others.’

The company, which is the resident at the London Coliseum, said customers bringing in alcohol had ‘been an issue’ and had caused ‘disruption to others’

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