When Boredom Strikes

Why This Belgian Bar Makes You Trade Your Shoe for a Beer

To prevent tourists from stealing their beer glasses, some bars in Belgium require people to hand over one of their shoes as a deposit which is then put in a basket and hung from the ceiling. These shoe baskets have also become an attraction.

For good reason, Belgium is among the world’s top beer countries, and many hop-loving, beer-sipping connoisseurs consider it a place of pilgrimage. Belgium would be the location of the celebration following the attempts by the machines that despise beer to take everyone out, if this were The Matrix—bear with me.

However, recent events in Belgium have taken an unusual turn. It appears that people are also interested in beer glasses in addition to beer itself. Pub owners are tired of the worrying trend of souvenir hunting, also known as glass stealing, which has been growing for some time. Some people have begun taking precautions to guarantee the security of their priceless glassware, some of which can fetch as much as fifty euros each.

According to Philip Maes, owner of 2be Bruges, “everyone of our beer glasses is secured against theft.” Each glass is fitted with an electronic anti-theft tag. Since some of the glasses are handcrafted and therefore one-of-a-kind, some visitors are keen to get their hands on one to take home as a souvenir. Regretfully, they would rather not cover the cost of the glass.

Why This Belgian Bar Makes You Trade Your Shoe for a Beer 1
composite image; left image courtesy dulle griet, right image from instagram user sanderbossie94.

Maes claims that while theft has always been an issue, the new tags address a significant portion of it. Nor do they involve the police: “No, it doesn’t go that far. Even for them, the sheer embarrassment of having the alarm go off at the gate is usually enough. Its main goal is to dissuade people, and it probably succeeds in doing so in about 80% of cases. The other 20 percent? They’ll always find a way.”

A different approach to this problem is offered by Dulle Griet in Ghent: you will have to give them your shoe as collateral in order to drink a beer. Hold on, what? You get your shoe back, so don’t worry. Like Cinderella, you will find your a pair of again when your beer is gone.

Though no one has attempted to enter the bar without shoes, it appears that people have left without shoes. And Dulle Griet doesn’t make any distinctions when it comes to shoes. Owner Alex De Vriendt states, “We actually accept all kinds of shoes, but we realize that a flip-flop is not as valuable as the beer glass.”

After being turned in, customers’ shoes are placed in a basket that hangs from the ceiling. Although it sounds a little strange, it’s not the most embarrassing item of apparel that could be worn up there, let’s face it. You wouldn’t do anything for a beer, would you?

Given that Dulle Griet wears big-ass glasses and that they have built-in wooden racks to keep them upright, protection of some kind is obviously required. Heck, even I’d like one! But really, people—stealing is wrong. The glass is not a complimentary keepsake that you can bring to your senior years to cuddle with. Simply settle the bill, sip the beer, and leave.

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