I’ve never been arrested before. In fact, I’ve always a bit of a goodie-two-shoes. When other kids were shoplifting pick-and-mix or bunking off school, I was too scared to not hand my homework in on time.
And things haven’t changed much since. I’m still the person who obeys the ‘do not walk on the grass’ signs and is too scared to even steal a pint glass from a pub. So needless to say, the law is not something I take lightly.
So how did I end up spending an evening locked up in a maximum-security prison?
Well, I choose to of course.
Named after the notorious US maximum-security prison Alcatraz, which housed difficult and dangerous felons during the mid-1900’s, Alcotraz (get the pun!?) is London’s first prison cocktail bar.
Located on Shoreditch’s Brick Lane, the bar originally came to London as a pop-up, but after it’s huge popularity (as well a little backlash), has decided to stick around for the foreseeable future.
So what’s it like to spend a night out drinking behind bars rather than in them?
From the moment you pass through the front entrance of Alcotraz, you’re thrown straight into the immersive prison experience.
The door is plastered with signs exclaiming that no alcohol is allowed on the premises. However, fail to sneak any in with you and you’ll be having a rather sober experience as Alcotraz is strictly BYOB.
Within seconds of walking into the inmate holding area, an orange jumpsuit is thrust into your hands which you are required to put straight on over your clothes.
And if you can’t manage this simple task in less than 30 seconds, or if your shoe gets stuck in the leg like mine did, you can expect an ear full of abuse from the rather intimidating guards in their deep-Southen accent.
Next is the most important part of the evening…
Smuggling in the booze.
The trick is to befriend the guards when you first enter. Do this correctly and you might be offered a helping hand getting your contraband past the warden and into your cell.
Then once you’re inside, you can sneak your spirits to another inmate who will kindly turn them into tasty cocktails. Just remember to watch out for the prying eyes of the angry warden.
Don’t expect things to calm down once you’ve settled into your cell though. Throughout the 2 hour slot, inmates are subject to fingerprinting, random cell searches and intense questioning. So remember to always keep your alcohol hidden and mouth shut. If the warden asks what’s in the cups, it’s water… always water!
But misbehave or have your alcohol found out and you might end up in the dreaded ‘hole’, a place which you are unlikely to return from with all 4 limbs intact.
Alcotraz is certainly a fun and unique London drinking experience.
Every little detail, from the grimy toilet in each cell to the tin cans you drink from, is designed to replicate the environment of a real prison. The warden and guards play their roles exceptionally well throughout the entirety of the evening and are definitely the best part of the experience.
At £33.99 pp (even with the BYOB), Alcotraz is a little on the pricey side. But for a special occasion or even a surprise for an unsuspecting friend, it is worth a visit.