As a precaution taken for its staff, Hop Sing Laundromat — the venerable cocktail bar and speakeasy run by a mysterious owner known only as Lê — closed to the public on March 14, 2020, two days before the city’s official COVID-19 lockdown was announced. As the pandemic evolved, then evolved again and again, Hop Sing stayed closed, never reopening or vacillating on the commitment to keep its staff safe and drinkers out. That is, until now: On Thursday, September 9, Hop Sing will reopen for the first time in 18 months.
“We don’t know what’s waiting for us,” a member of Hop Sing’s management, who asked not to be named, told Eater. “We’d rather play it correctly and safe.” Asked why decide to reopen now then, as the Delta variant continues to spread, the spokesperson said after almost two years of being closed, they just had to try it. “This is something we’ve been working on for weeks,” they said. “The staff all feel good about it. They think it’s safe to open, especially if we ask for proof of vaccination.”
Before the pandemic, Hop Sing could only fit 52 people, and patrons had to abide by a list of rules in order to drink there. Standing and photography were not permitted; IDs were required with no exceptions; and any number of infractions could get imbibers placed on a banned list. Those rules will still be in place when Hop Sing reopens on Thursday, but now with one additional requirement: guests must present a vaccination card alongside their ID at the door.
“We think it’s better to do this so we don’t have to deal with reminding people to put their masks on all the time,” the management at Hop Sing told Eater. When the bar reopens on Thursday, it will be at 50 percent capacity to start, with only 26 available seats, and no party can be larger than 4 people. Hop Sing will have limited days and hours, too: Thursday from 5 p.m. until 12 a.m., and then on Friday and Saturday from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m.
Staying closed for 18 months was not easy, Hop Sing’s management said, but losing business and money were not the hardest things to deal with when the doors were closed. “The hardest part was reading about the people who died: a mother, a father, a breadwinner. Someone who is irreplaceable to their family,” the spokesperson said. It was this emotion that dictated how and when Hop Sing would eventually reopen, even if it remains on a limited basis. “We cannot pretend that nothing is happening.”