- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 8, 2002

LONDON — By day, it may resemble a manhole, but when the sun goes down, out pops UriLift, a drunks best friend.

Its the latest contraption designed to solve that chronic problem in entertainment districts everywhere — how do drinkers and clubbers relieve themselves after a long night out?

In Britain, police officers waste their time nabbing those who just cant wait, and shopkeepers often are forced to hose down their doorways in the morning. Now a newly arrived Dutch invention could change all that.

The UriLift, a stainless-steel cylinder that rises from the ground in two minutes and disappears just as quickly already has been well-received in one English town and will be arriving at two London hot spots later this month.

Dutch inventor Marco Schimmel came up with the idea three years ago to "provide a unique solution for indiscriminate urination," the company Web site said.

The device is installed 4 feet under the street, so passersby see only a manhole during the day, not an unsightly urinal. Concrete manhole covers are available in any color and design.

When the night life arrives, an officer standing within a few feet of the UriLift can activate the hydraulic motor by remote control. Three men have room to use the sleek device at the same time, and it is lighted, though it has no doors.

Theres no need to worry about smell because the UriLift, with its automatic flushing, is connected to sewer mains for disposal of urine and flush water. No one has to empty those temporary plastic urinals that some towns place outside bars.

Best of all, said Lisa Parish, a spokeswoman for Britains UriLift distributor, the semipermanent urinal is quite invincible when challenged by the party animal whos had one or more too many.

"The beauty of UriLift is that it is so simple that there is nothing they can break off it," Miss Parish said, noting that hooligans can hit it or kick it all they like.

For now, women must hold it in a little longer. A prototype for them is not yet ready.

UriLifts, costing about $30,000 each and endorsed by the British Toilet Association, have been popping up at night in two locations around Reading, a town west of London.

At an April 25 ceremony in the Reading Town Center, Mr. Schimmel activated the first one by remote control as Richard Strauss "Also Sprach Zarathustra," the main title music from the film "2001: A Space Odyssey," rang out. A second one began operating in May.

London, which last month celebrated the 150th anniversary of the citys first public toilet, is getting two UriLifts in the Westminster section. One will be installed outside a subway station and the other outside the Palace Theater, where tourists see "Les Miserables."

"We like these as 80 percent of Westminster is covered by conservation rules that are very strict about what can be put where," Judith Warner, a Westminster Council Cabinet member, told the London Sunday Times recently.Still, changing attitudes in Britain may pose somewhat of a challenge.

"I guess its accepted that after a late night, if you want to [urinate], you can just go ahead and have one anywhere," said Neeraj, a 27-year-old Londoner.

His friend, Roger, added: "I dont see the point. Its more fun going in the middle of the street. Its almost traditional, like having a kebab after youve drank too much and are stumbling home."

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