Musty Bunches - Tales from the Spit Bucket
It began life as a grandiose project to show that the UK can still do the grand gestures when it wants to - to prove to a sceptical world that the pioneering spirit of our once glorious Victorian Empire wasn't entirely dead.
Nineteenth century Paris got the Eiffel Tower. This would be the UK's testament to the shining optimism of a new millennium - the physical embodiment of forward-thinking, creative energy and Cool Britannia.
The world, we were told, would look on in envy.
Only it hasn't quite happened like that. The world has looked on all right, but it has mostly done so with a giant smirk on its face. For a start, London's Millennium Dome ain't no Eiffel Tower. While the symbol of Paris soars symbolically upwards in elegant sweeps of engineering genius, the Dome squats on the Greenwich mudflats like a beached jellyfish - unhappy, embarrassed, and apparently undergoing acupuncture.
Not only that, but it is hard to get to, hugely expensive, vastly unprofitable - and built to last only five years.
Cynics might congratulate the governments involved on the way in which they have so accurately captured the spirit of modern Britain in one sorry project, but it does throw up an intriguing poser: What's to be done with the jellyfish once the current exhibition bites the dust?
After all, the current business plan may have been an unmitigated disaster, but surely a 'dynamic', 'go-ahead' industry such as the booze world could make it work?
Myself and my colleagues at just-drinks.com put our thinking caps on and came up with the following suggestions:
Tony O'Blair's, Greenwich
The echoing hall is about the same size as your average 'genuine' Irish bar, and with as much character, so how long before it becomes an O'Neill's? Visitors could warm to the witty use of sawdust; laugh at the amusing gents and ladies toilet signs written in Gaelic (so that non-regulars always go in the wrong one - hilarious!); savour the astonishing variety of stew dishes on offer and happily leave their pints of flavour-free extra-cold Guinness on the upturned hogsheads artfully dotted around the middle of the echoing cavern.
Probability rating: Another Irish bar in London? Soon there won't be enough Kiwi barstaff to go round! 4/10
Ginworld - the Gordon's Theme Park
Five years ago, Gordon's gin ran an advertisement showing an athletic young chap sliding down into his glass of G&T (then at 40% abv and worth drinking). The current Body Zone area in the Dome could easily be adapted to show what happens to an alcohol molecule once it enters the body. Whole families could sit in a giant ice cube, slide in through the mouth and be taken on a whirlwind ride through the stomach, liver, kidneys, bloodstream and urinary tract before being pissed out into the UDV shop, giddy with the experience and ready to spend, spend, spend.
As well as being highly educational, it would surely help promote sensible drinking in the younger generation.
Probability rating: A good idea. Only problem is that UDV's apparent intention of turning Gordon's into a low alcohol juniper wine might bring it into serious competition with Vinopolis nearby. 6/10
Why not set up a retail park that sells booze at continental rates of duty? It would certainly cut down on the number of Brits currently taking the family Transit Van across the channel and stocking up with 200 cases of Johnnie Walker for "personal consumption" at preferential French duty rates then flogging it under the counter to pubs in Glasgow.
But with the booze haven, the UK Chancellor of the Exchequer would take his cut as normal, his French counterpart would lose out, and those hard-working smugglers wouldn't have to waste so much time or money going all the way to France. Everyone's a winner!
Probability rating: An imaginative solution to an apparently intractable political dilemma. No chance. 2/10
Scotch boating lake
The Dome would have to be sealed to make it as leakproof as Diageo central office, but it might make a handy storage area for the thousands of litres of unsold and unsellable Scotch currently sloshing around. Any brand managers still in a job could be made to canoe their way from one side to the other to make them realise just how inaccurate their five-year forecasts were.
Probability rating: Petty, vindictive and unpleasant. Reasonable chance. 5/10
Allied Domecq HQ
When Allied finally succeed in paying over the odds for the one Scotch, one rum and half a vodka that makes up Seagram's must-have portfolio, they're going to need a new home for all the new staff. Somewhere big. Somewhere near to their new friends in the City. And, most importantly, somewhere cheap. And boy, do we have just the place for you, Mr Bowman. Detached, modern, stylish - and unparallelled river views.
Not only that, but they could save quite a bit on signposting, too. Without too much work, the place could handily be retitled the Millennium Dome-cq, getting one over on their good friends at Diageo.
Probability rating: Let's see: a grandiose plan, low on budget but high on disruption? A giant chamber where the AD Polizei can keep an eye on the proles below? A dead cert. 10/10
Obviously, the just-drinks.com team are the finest drinks brains in the country, and the chances of anyone best-guessing them are negligible. But we'd like to hear your suggestions for the use of the Millennium Dome. The 10 best suggestions will be posted on the site by the middle of December and put to the vote.
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