The night we drank for free at Hop Sing Laundromat

The Chinatown bar’s fifth anniversary party was something to remember.

Guests at the party, L to R: Ian Kelly, Britt Miller, Billy Penn editor Chris Krewson, Billy Penn reporter Mark Dent

Guests at the party, L to R: Ian Kelly, Britt Miller, Billy Penn editor Chris Krewson, Billy Penn reporter Mark Dent

Robert Neroni for Hop Sing Laundromat

And, lo, on its fifth anniversary, infamous Hop Sing Laundromat proprietor Lê finally relaxed the rules.

All I’d previously known about the Chinatown cocktail bar had to do with its well-publicized and rigorously policed guidelines: No sneakers. No flip-flops or sandals. No shorts. No crowds, no photos.

Sure enough, I was warned via text when I got my invite. Although the sneaker ban was being lifted, and would not apply henceforth, the flip-flop and sandal restriction remained, as did the one against baring my legs in public. I got another reminder in the ante-room before plunging into the votive-lit interior, just as a regular patron would be, along with strict instructions: My cell phone camera needed to stay unused.

However, in a break from past practice, the crowd inside was allowed — no, encouraged! — to mingle, hopping from table to table in a way usually verboten.

Hi, Councilman [and Condo King] Allan Domb! Is that Michael Schulson? Kylie Flett? Albert Lee? And yes, in line with Lê’s penchant for attracting press, plenty of media: Inquirer food editor Maureen Fitzgerald, and Bar Scene scribe Sam Melamed; Philly Mag’s Jason Sheehan and Alex Tewfik, and ex-Foobooz-er Art Etchells; Philebrity’s Joey Sweeney; food writer Joy Manning, and more I’m sure I missed.

The second big difference at this invite-only party? The drinks — named as some of the best in the world, no fooling — were entirely free. “Just take care of the staff,” asked Lê during a brief speech delivered perched atop the nickel-paved bar.

Another highlight: In memoriam of the no-sneaker rule, a custom cake shaped like a giant Air Jordan. Only instead of MJ’s name along the side, the basketball shoe was branded “Air Pyongyang,” a nod to Lê’s schtick that Hop Sing is the “world’s greatest North Korean cocktail bar.” For the record, that sneaker was delicious.

No hate mails, please.

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Chris Krewson is the executive director of LION Publishers, a national nonprofit association that serves local journalism entrepreneurs build sustainable news organizations, and the founding editor of Billy Penn. He lives in Havertown.