In 2002, Milk & Honey opened the doors to its darkened bars – a Soho members’ hangout and cocktail spot inspired by and partnered with Sasha Petraske’s secretive yet legendary bar of the same name in New York. The London outpost came to define and shape the speakeasy revival at the start of the millennium. But it remained relevant 18 years on, consistently in Time Out’s list of the best cocktail bars in London, and providing a darkened date-night spot for many over the years. So it’s with a heavy heart that we share the news that Milk & Honey has closed for good.
The bar’s owner, Jonathan Downey, broke the news in a letter to Milk & Honey members earlier in the year. He said that despite the bar temporarily reopening to the public after lockdown, it would be last orders in September, when the bar’s lease would come to an end. ‘The very bad news is that, after more than 18 years in Soho, this will be our final ten weeks before we are forced to close for good,’ said Downey.
Downey went on to explain the circumstances under which Milk & Honey would be departing, with the space being repossessed by its landlords due to unpaid rent.
‘Despite paying almost £4 million in rent since we first signed the lease on Poland Street, our landlords are refusing to allow us any rent-free or other reduced deal for the period we’ve been closed by government order, and their position has not changed in months. It looks like it never will,’ said Downey.
The announcement follows a campaign led by Downey since April calling for a national rent freeze for the UK’s struggling hospitality venues, which were forced to close their doors in March. The #NationalTimeOut proposal urged the government to pause rent payments across the industry for nine months to allow restaurants and bars room to navigate the current crisis without the worry of meeting monthly payment deadlines.
Milk & Honey fast became popular in London thanks to its original cocktail menu devised by drinks legend Dale DeGroff, its secretive entrance on Poland Street in Soho and its low-lit basement bar, which was open to non-members with bookings before 11pm. It also came with its own set of house rules (‘No hooting, hollering, shouting or other loud behaviour’ etc).
The bar ended its final ten-week run at the weekend (Sunday September 27), closing its doors – as per new curfew restrictions – atypically early.
Check out this list of fellow London bars and restaurants that sadly won’t be reopening.