Lonely Planet Writer

Escape to Alcotraz, London's prison-experience cocktail bar

London’s first ever prison-style cocktail bar is open now for the winter, allowing guests the opportunity to smuggle liquor of their choice past guards, which will then be used to create a selection of unique, personalised drinks. In order to truly embrace the experience, visitors will also be given prisoner numbers, dressed in orange jumpsuits and seated either in small cells or in the visitation area.

A guest receiving a cocktail in Alcotraz prison pop up London
Guests spend their time either in a cell or in the visitation area. Image by Matt Martin Photography

Called Alcotraz, the project opened on 28 September and is running for three months only, behind the unassuming shutters of 212 Brick Lane. Inspired by America’s infamous Alcatraz prison, the bar can accommodate up to 30 inmates at a time. Drinks are crafted without rules or menus before being served in discreet containers so as to avoid drawing the attention of the warden. The experience has already proven popular with guests. “We opened our doors to the public last week and we welcomed a number of keen theatre enthusiasts who loved the experience. The reaction online has been exceptional. We also did post-experience surveys with a number of customers and we were thrilled with the reactions,” Sam Shearman, founder of Inventive Productions, the company behind the project, told Lonely Planet Travel News.

A prison inmate holds a cocktail from Alcotraz in London
The bar serves drinks in inconspicuous containers to avoid detection by the warden. Image by Alcotraz

“Having personally always been fascinated about Alcatraz Island, its inmates and stories, the inspiration behind the pop-up bar is not to romanticise imprisonment but rather create an engaging experience for guests that gently opens the door to worlds only seen by most in fiction. A great deal of Hollywood movies and novels have tried to bring stories to life, and inside our venue we gently nod to a number of these references,” Sam said. The theme does indeed seem to be a growing phenomenon in the tourism sector worldwide, with a new prison-style hostel having recently launched in Bangkok that allows guests to sleep in cells, while England is hosting an overnight stay in the most haunted prison in the UK this month.

A prison guard drinks from a flask in Alcotraz in London
The experience is running for three months this winter in London. Image by Matt Martin Photography

The bar is open Thursday to Saturday from 5pm to 11pm. Tickets cost £30 and come with four cocktails and an hour and forty-five minutes inside.

More information on booking the Alcotraz experience is available at the official website.