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.