We Spent the Night in Alcotraz
Written by: Claire Holly Davies
Nevertheless, as I clamber into a very large (cheers guys) orange jumpsuit, the guard shoves a bottle of Conkers Gin wrapped in a thin towel (no fluffy Egyptian cotton here lads), into my now somewhat clammy hands. Whispering hastily at me to not get caught by the warden I’m ushered off in single file into the depths of Alcotraz.
Once inside the dark confines of Hackney’s answer to an old school US penitentiary, but with less hooch and more cocktails, we’re confronted with a Southern gent of a prison warden. Blocking the way through to the cells, the warden is all beard, belly and bible. Peering over his round glasses perched on the tip of his nose he bellows first testament chapters at us, reading from the small and well thumbed book he brandishes in front of our perplexed faces. His tone changes suddenly to a reassuring rumble as he promises that if we repent and stay out of trouble we’ll be released from the depths of Alcotraz.
The room is lined on one side with cells – all bare brick walls, metal bars and prison beds. Inmates (a rowdy bunch of journalists) clang their metal cups along the railings and cheers as they’re handed cocktails hidden in cans. A long bar, styled like American prison visitation booths, lines the opposite wall, with pairs of stalls sat in front of each ‘booth’. One side for the ‘prisoners’ the other for the bar team, acting out their roles as convicts serving illegal alcoholic contraband to their fellow inmates.
We’re directed to a booth where my plus one clumsily hands a bottle of spirits over to our very own private bar man, before getting a ticking off for not being covert enough. Seriously, I can’t take him anywhere (you can read about his last escapade as my plus one at the Between The Sheets burlesque show here). I’m considering giving him his own column “The Sorry Adventures of Being a North Four Plus One”, but in all honesty it would be about as dull as watching Philip Hammond stoically drinking a cup of insipid tea. I’m the fun one in this very one-sided double act.
London’s very first prison bar will have you conversing with prison guards about the nature of your crimes, being thumb printed for your prison records and potentially sent to solitary confinement, all whilst sipping on cocktails specifically made for you from your spirit of choice. You bring your own spirits (vodka, gin, whisky and/or rum) and pay £30 per guest which includes four cocktails mixed for each guests across an ‘inmate sentencing’ period of 1 hour and 45 minutes.
The prison is open Thursday to Saturday from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and is open now until December 17.
212 Brick Lane, London E1 6RL
Photos by Matt Martin Photography
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Getting shouted at by a burly prison guard with a buzz cut and an offensively loud American accent isn't usually the way one wishes to begin one's night. Nevertheless, as I clamber into a very large (cheers guys) orange jumpsuit, the guard shoves a bottle of Conkers Gin wrapped in a thin towel (no fluffy Egyptian cotton here lads), into my now somewhat clammy hands. Whispering hastily at me to not get caught by the warden I'm ushered off in single file into the depths of Alcotraz.
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