A new “prison-themed” pop-up bar called Alcotraz is opening on Brick Lane in east London in September. It comes at a time when the prison population in the UK has seen a recent surge, reportedly adding strain to overstretched prison service
Modelled on Alcatraz, the infamous prison that — a statement released with details of the pop-up reminds readers — “housed some of the world’s most difficult and dangerous felons during its operation.” Alcotraz (see what they did there?) promises, somewhat astonishingly, “to bring an authentic prison experience to Brick Lane” via the medium of an “experiential pop-up” that “will take inventiveness to a whole new level.”
The statement goes on to suggest, opaquely, that the “new three month pop-up concept will replicate the eerie atmosphere and mystery associated with prison life, offering a world of unique escapism,” segueing into “whilst serving delicious, experimental cocktails.”
The pop-up bar is giving those “convicts” — or, as they’re more commonly known, customers — the opportunity to smuggle their own spirits past fake prison guards and into the fake “jail,” where their stash will be shaken into “bespoke, personalised cocktails made by an expert mixologist.”
Alcotraz was conceived or, rather, according to the statement, is the “brainchild” of Sam Shearman, the founder of Inventive Productions, who said, “Whilst being a hugely fun experience, this new pop up will allow visitors to experience a slice of Alcatraz Penitentiary only seen by most in fiction.” The “immersive drinking experience” literally involves dressing in an orange jumpsuit, being given an inmate number before being directed into a cold metallic cell.
The website features a letter from Inmate #88, who’s been stuck inside for so long that he thinks that opening a bar in a prison is a good idea. The inmate writes that while prison life has its ups and downs, the guards have let him keep his collection of homemade syrups, juices and bitters from his life on the outside. He promises to “fix you up something that really tickles your fancy” (as long as you have the alcohol).
The £30 entry fee guarantees customers at least an hour and 45 minutes in prison — a life sentence if it’s as true to actual prison as the website suggests — plus four cocktails made with one’s own contraband booze.