Chinatown’s Hop Sing Laundromat has been forever legendary for everything from its innovative, couture cocktails to its level of controlled, reserved privacy (with no cellphones or snapped photos allowed inside).
Owner, cocktail creator and host Lê has long run his Hop Sing Laundromat with an iron fist fitted with a velvet glove, and has a fairly strict entrance policy – a set of house rules and notes covering phones, dress codes and banned customer lists – before gaining entrance to his palatial library-den-like drinking salon. Once you get past the unmarked gate at 1029 Race Street enjoy the room’s rarity and the evening’s gentle conviviality.
I bring all of this up now because – whether you realize it or not, what from its level of privacy and seclusion – Hop Sing Laundromat has actually been closed, due to Covid, since March of last year. Lê is finally opening the doors to his Laundromat speakeasy as of this Thursday night, September 9, at 5 pm. The only policy he seems to have relaxed is the no sneaker rule. And you can only bring four people to his door. And proof-of-vaccination cards will be required at the door.
No. You can’t call and make a reservation. There are no phones for Lê or HSL either. That’s been the case since Hop Sing’s opening in May 2012. And I have to confess, I haven’t been back to Hop Sing Laundromat in a minute (long before the pandemic), so, maybe now is my chance for a welcome return.
Back at the start of Hop Sing Laundromat, when Philadelphia City Paper was still going strong and Philly’s restaubar culture was kicking into overdrive after its initial late 90s renaissance, Lê and I had many a conversation about his roots in the New York City speakeasy cocktail-eries of the early 2000s, about the notions of being a true original, about his somber design concepts (including Hop Sing Laundromat’s wealth of inlaid pennies and nickels), and about additional plans that he had to conquer to the city. And though he has gone on to create imaginative cocktail programs for other Philly nightlife boites and arrange boozy Hop Sing Laundromat pop-ups, here’s to a man who has done one great thing ridiculously and vividly well.
Long live Lê and Hop Sing Laundromat. See you at the bar that we still have to stand at (no chairs) to behold.