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That's not just any foot rest. It's a trough.

The next time you find yourself sitting at an old Baltimore bar, look down and see what's underneath it.

There might be a long, wooden railing, or a rectangular foot rest -- or nothing at all. But if you're in a bar like the Pickled Parrot, you'll be propping up your feet on an exposed metal trough. And once you see it, you might start to wonder what a metal trough is doing underneath a bar.

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Anyone who's just eaten lunch might not want to keep reading past this point ...

Years ago, a surprisingly large number of Baltimore watering holes were stag bars. That's a fancy way of saying "men's only" clubs -- run by men for men.

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The absence of women meant the guys didn't have to be as polite as they would around members of the fairer sex. Curse words were exchanged. Dirty stories were told. Fists met faces. And after a few cold ones, most men needed to relieve themselves.

If the pub was packed full of people and you were lucky enough to have a spot at the bar, you weren't going to want to risk losing it by walking to the bathroom. But when nature calls, sooner or later, you have to pick up the phone.

What to do?

To solve the problem, bars began installing impromptu urinals underneath the bars. They were stainless steal troughs with a faucet at one end and a drain at the other. That way, the beer could go in one end and out the other at the same time.

I'd like to propose toast to modern innovation!

As time passed, stag bars went the way of horse and buggies. New owners bought old pubs, and, grossed out by the sight and smell of the troughs, ripped them up or covered them with plywood. A few spots, like the Pickled Parrot, kept them for posterity's sake.

Today, when you see a seemingly harmless wooden foot rest below a bar, chances are, it's hiding a metal trough -- a dirty little secret from pubs of the past.

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