Here at Smart Live, we’re constantly on the hunt for new ideas, and that’s not just keeping up with the latest trends and new venue openings. In order to ensure we live up to our reputation of being imaginative, creative, and going that extra mile to exceed expectations, we search for inspiration everywhere. Right now we can’t get enough of hidden bars, and here’s why…
When it comes to events such as brand activations, it's all about creating a buzz around a new brand and getting everyone excited for its launch. A hidden bar could be the perfect way to create that feeling of anticipation and excitement; by adding a mystery element that requires guests to find your brand in a hidden gem before its launch, guests will not only be excited by the thought of a new brand, but by visiting a cool and quirky new venue too!
Alternatively, a ‘hidden’ VIP reception area could give a party that extra special touch, with guests requiring a key or password to enter through a disguised door. Similarly, a team building day could end with employees needing to find a hidden bar using a series of clues. The opportunities are endless!
We’ve collated a list of some of our favourite bars tucked away behind fridges, bookshelves and vending machines from around the globe. The majority of these are almost impossible to find if you don’t know where to look…you can thank us later!
BYOC – Central London
This ‘Bring Your Own Cocktails’ bar can be discovered when you step into the basement of the James Cochran Restaurant in the City (as well as through a mysterious black door opposite a station in Camden, or through the door of an empty shop deep in the heart of Brighton's South Lanes). The way it works is you pay £30 at the door, bring a bottle of your favourite spirit and let their team of skilled bartenders fix you up something with their chest of homemade syrups, juices and bitters, as well as vegetables, fruit, herbs and minerals.
Boilermaker – Nottingham
Ever thought you could walk into a shop that sells boilers and come out feeling chilled and nicely boozed-up from cocktails named Bloody JalMary, Snoop Dogg’s Herbal Gin ‘n’ Juice and Strong Gindependent Woman? Well at Boilermaker in Nottingham that’s exactly what happens; you walk into the world’s most basic boiler shop with white walls and just a single counter, and barge your way through the Staff Only door. There, you’ll find a quirky bar with a no-standing and no-booking policy that sells exciting cocktails, along with some witty back-stories that accompany them.
Flask – Shanghai
Not only would you have to travel a bit further afield to discover this hidden gem, but it’s also recently closed down…HOWEVER, this incredibly cool idea could undoubtedly be incorporated into your next creative event. When it was open, the concept was to walk into an average-looking sandwich bar, where you’d find a retro Coca-Cola vending machine at the back of it. You’d open it up to find a sleek bar with an interesting post-industrial décor, designed by architect Alberto Caiola, that sells tasty cocktails served to you by dapper bartenders.
BackDoor 43 – Milan
This quirky little bar claims to be the world’s smallest, measuring just 13 square feet and holding a capacity of four guests at a time. To make a reservation, you’ll need a key and a secret code to enter. A lot of this unique experience comes from the theatrical masked bartender, who insists you follow the rules on the wall and apparently doesn’t hold back when saying what he thinks. What’s more, if you’re not in the mood to be sipping drinks in an intimate room with 3 other people, you can take their quality cocktails away with you.
Luggage Room – Marriott Hotel on Grosvenor Square
This intimate London cocktail bar draws on the spirit of the Roaring Twenties, oozing style, decadence and filled with fine liquor displays and period curiosities. The aptly named Luggage Room sits in the Marriott Hotel on Grosvenor Square, but it’s certainly not the kind of place you’d find yourself stumbling upon; you have to ask the porter and knock on a mysterious black door, before being welcomed into the luggage-inspired décor bar that stays open until 2am.
The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town, East London
This retro little bar is located in the Breakfast Club café in Spitalfields, and can only be accessed through the door of a Smeg fridge. It’s not as easy as just walking in though, you have to go through the mayor first; just ask to see him and hopefully he’ll let you through…Food-lovers rejoice, because they also sell a selection of fun bar food including Disco Fries, Truffle & Parmesan Fries and Chicken in a Basket.
81LTD – Liverpool
If you think speaking to The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town before being allowed into a bar is a bit ‘out-there’, then think again. To get into 81LTD, located on one of Liverpool’s most famous streets, you first have to text for an invite. You will then receive a code to an inconspicuous door located above a hot dog restaurant. After inputting your code, you ascend into cocktail heaven.
Panda and Sons, Edinburgh
The entrance to this bar will make your childhood dreams come true…the bar is disguised as an old-school barbershop on Queen Street, meaning this isn’t the kind of bar you’d just stumble upon. Once you’re in, wander towards the bookcase against the wall and pull down a book to open the door to this magical place. Cocktails are certainly inventive, including ‘Red Panda’: Tanqueray gin with tomato juice, kaffir lime leaves, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, sriracha foam and Guinness foam.
GYU Bar – Japan
The next hidden bar is located in the mountainous Niseko in Japan. If you ever go skiing in Niseko, make sure you don’t miss out on GYU Bar, located behind a tiny red freezer door sticking up from a snow bank. Brush off your snow boots and enter into the warm atmosphere with relaxing lighting and peculiar drink menus filled with hand-written texts and hand-drawn maps. Also, if you’re a fan of whiskey, it’s most likely well worth the trip – the bar is renowned for its rare Japanese whiskey selections.
Bank Bar – the Philippines
A 7-Eleven convenience store is probably not where you’d expect to find an intimate hideout bar. Simply locate the storage room where you’ll find a hidden entrance to this velvet furnished bar that claims to have the widest selection of cocktails in Manila…and we believe them. From sake to single malts, grappas to gin, they supply it.
We're proud of our extensive experience with brand activations and would love to help you out with your next event. Smart Live offer a free venue finding service in the UK and internationally and can recommend plenty of inspiring properties. Click here to see some examples of how we've used our creative license for product launches that we've done for brands such as De Vere and Magic.