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Vertical Drinking Establishments are the Antichrist. If they serve beer in Hell, it will be horrible Continental piss-water that's like making love in a canoe, and it will be served in one of these horrible, nasty establishments, the likes of which are as welcome in any rational drinker's life - and any town centre - as blood on the toilet paper.

Traditionally, a British Pub was a place where you could go, sit down, talk to people, drink nice beer that tastes of something in a cheerful, convivial evening, and people knew when to stop. The beer was inevitably local and you got pleasantly tipsy and were served by people who knew when to cut you off so you don't make a drunken fight-getting-into exhibition of yourself. There are still a few places like this, truth be told, but the Vertical Drinking Establishment has taken over. Because Vertical Drinking Establishments are nothing like a real pub; they're basically a machine for separating barcode-shirted braying Sun-reading asshats and their screeching Fifty Shades of Grey reading girlfriends from their money as expeditiously as possible and putting it into the pockets of faceless big companies so they can buy up more pubs and assimilate them likewise. They are astoundingly good at it as well.

They're called Vertical Drinking Establishments, incidentally, because one of the first things to go in the metamorphosis from proper boozer to public house of horrors is the seating. It's drastically cut back or reduced to a few designer stools, none near the bar. The reason is simple - more space to pack people in, and also because studies show that people who sit down drink more slowly. People who stand up drink more, and faster, and don't have to expend the effort of standing up to trot over to the bar to get more ale in.

Whoa! Did I say ale? I meant lager. Or alcopops. My bad. These places don't serve anything other than lager, alcopops, or spirits. There is a very good reason for this. Because the idea of serving beer that tastes of something causes people to stop, and savour it, and while they're not savouring it, they're not buying more beer. So they serve uniformly horrible stuff that you have to toss down your gullet in case your taste buds touch it and declare independence. They also serve spirits, because a measure of same is gone in a couple of seconds. Sorry, no nice single malt whiskies here. We're talking Jack Daniels and Smirnoff and Sambuca. Nein danke. Basically, cheap shite that only exists to allow the mockney-accented wankers that make these place's clientele pose as hard somehow and brag about how much they can drink. Sold, of course, at high prices.

Then there's the background music. They turn it way up so you have to shout to be heard. Because people who are talking to each other aren't buying drinks. The unmistakeable thumping of pop-dance-chart drivel or the dreary wubwubwubwub of dubstep coming from within also acts as an attract mode to people outside, who think it must be a cool place to go and gives it a bit of a club vibe, in a way. Once inside, they can be sold more fizzy lager and tart fuel at £4.50 a chuck. And if they run out of cash, not to worry, there's usually a cashpoint (one of those odious ones with a £1.85 surcharge every use, natch) inside as well. Or they can just bugger off and hit up another such dive. The background noise forces up the volume of conversation so it sounds busier than it is from outside, thus attracting more punters.

Naturally, come chucking out time, which usually occurs in a cascade between 1.30 am and 3.00 am, as different places chuck out at different times, you've got loads of mobile phone salesman types disgorging onto the streets and converging on the friendly local kebab van. Here begins the fun! Because these worthies are all full of fizzy lager and E numbers, disgruntlement because their bird's been looked at, and then are getting down their neck badly undercooked grease-riddled mystery meat kebabs or warmed over Tesco Horseburgers... well, what goes down must come up. In High Wycombe there was a bit where two Vertical Drinking Establishments - The Litten Tree, now a Yates' Wine Lodge, and Butlers, faced each other. At about 2.30 am there was a barf belt throughout the town at a radius of exactly sixty yards from this nexus, and feet had to watch where they went. The lager, disgruntlement, and dissatisfaction also manifests in the form of crime and anti social behaviour and pitched battles between drunkards, who would square up to one another sucking their teeth and full of Stella and egotism while their womenfolk, clad in skirts wider than long and super-sized heels with a blocky platform bit at the front, would try to drag them off before going at it hammer and tongs with each other. These descendants of pirates and fishwives would then find themselves separated and nicked, hopefully. Or they'd wander down residential streets singing football chants. And no doubt the next morning would get up horribly hung over, a lot poorer, and convinced that they had a well good night.

Then along comes the Government, spots that town centres are now hotbeds of depravity and bodily fluids after dark, decides Something Must Be Done and puts in place minimum alcohol pricing. So now sensible drinkers like myself, who don't think it's fun to pick fights while drunk, and who don't throw up in taxis or urinate against lampposts on Shoreditch High Street after a night oot on the tap, get penalised, and due to the roaring success of this Vertical Drinking Establishment business model, which has more in common with a fast food franchise than a social centre, pubs where one can actually drink stuff that tastes of something, converse with folks, and actually enjoy oneself, are very much on the way out. Upon where the big chains buy them up and turn them into more Vertical Drinking Establishments.

They also, by dint of their success and having lots of money from being part of big chains, can then afford high-powered lawyers to defend them at licencing hearings against the complaints that rack up over them. Which makes them a bit like herpes, really - once your town's got them, you'll never get rid. But seriously, in all fairness, the only thing worse than a Vertical Drinking Establishment is a pub with a flat roof.

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