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New York speakeasy Employees Only to open in Hong Kong

Written by
Holly Graham

Everyone loves a hot bar opening and this June Hong Kong is getting a scorcher.

Unstoppable speakeasy Employees Only, currently ranked seventh on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, will be opening its ‘legitimate place for illegitimate people’, fittingly, at 17-22 Lan Kwai Fong in the former Va Bene space. Originally hailing from New York, Employees Only already has an outpost in Miami and Singapore, making Hong Kong its fourth, courtesy of co-founder Igor Hadzismajlovic. The decorated establishment has won awards such as World’s Best Drinks Selection from Tales of the Cocktail 2011 and has featured on the World’s 50 Best Bars list consecutively since it started eight years ago, also earning them the 'Legends of the List' title.

Established in 2004, Employees Only is the brainchild of five bartenders who wanted to create a space for staffers in the food and beverage industry, allowing them to kick back after hours when everything else had closed. Despite catering to a specific niche of the New York bar scene, Employees Only have been front-runners in the Big Apples craft cocktail movement, mixing classics, concocting new creations and speed bartending, free pouring up to four cocktails within minutes. Most of New York's original bartending crew are still behind the stick today - an astoundingly long retention rate for the hospitality industry.

Employees only founder Igor Hadzismajlovic
Founder Igor Hadzismajlovic

The public inevitably caught wind of this industry haunt and Employees Only became so popular it was rated by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States as the highest grossing cocktail bar per square foot in the United States – the bartenders were shaking up 138,000 cocktails a year in a venue of only 1,600 square feet. Shockingly, the Hong Kong space is twice the size of the NYC bar, so that means we could be knocking back 276,000 cocktails in a year. Cheers to that.

Beverage director Owen Gibler was the man behind Employees Only Singapore bar and will be moving over to Hong Kong to head up the bar programme. Executive chef James Black, a man with a Michelin star studded CV including our very own Bo Innovation and Marco Pierre White’s Belvedere in London, will be dishing up some Employees Only signature dishes as well as some Hong Kong exclusives. 

As Employees Only started out as a bar for industry people, the gang will be keeping tradition by hosting a one-night, industry-only sneak preview at Salon No 10 on 22 May to stoke the fires. Time to brown nose your industry mates and blag an invite, then. Everyone else will just have to be patient.

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