Hop Sing Laundromat in Chinatown, which closed March 14, 2020, just before the city shut down bars and restaurants because of the COVID-19 outbreak, will reopen Thursday, Sept. 9.
Because the seating at the speakeasy-style bar has been reduced, parties will be limited to four people. Proof-of-vaccination cards will be required at the door. No photos or copies will be accepted, according to management.
You push the buzzer at its unmarked gate at 1029 Race St. and await a host, usually the enigmatic owner, who goes simply by Lê and dubs the place “the world’s best North Korean cocktail bar.” The host goes over the house rules, which include no photos, no cell phones, flip-flops, sandals, or shorts. (Sneakers were banned at the opening, but the sneaker policy was relaxed in 2017.)
It’s cash only, a rare policy for a bar where drink prices start in the high teens.
You hand over your photo ID, head up a few stairs inside, and sit on a former church pew in the anteroom, whose floor is covered in pennies. Then comes a short speech outlining the rules of decorum in Hop Sing’s windowless, ornate, candlelit room, whose actual bar (with no seating) is covered in nickels.
You’re not finished yet. During your lecture, your ID is being scanned to be sure you are not among the 4,857 people on the banned list.
Yes, a banned list. Lê puts the bar in bars.
He’ll bounce patrons for a multitude of transgressions, including tipping meagerly, acting unruly, and taking photos (he’s not too keen on those taking selfies in the restroom). It’s all in the name of respectability, but he seems to enjoy banning people and trolling Yelpers, as his Facebook feed suggests.
During the break, Lê consulted on the cocktail menu at Pinefish and did a couple of pop-ups at Spice Finch.
The bar opens at 5 p.m. Thursday to Saturday. As you might expect, there’s no phone number, nor are reservations accepted.