I’ve never been arrested. In fact, the worst crime I’ve probably committed is thieving a ring from Claire’s Accessories because it didn’t have any tags and just kind of… slipped onto my finger. Even as a pre-teen, I felt incredibly guilty and have never stolen a penny sweet since.
Despite being on the right side of the law, a few weeks back I somehow ended up in a maximum-security prison. Shouting guards, interrogations, cell searches and even a lineup… I experienced it all. You see down on East London’s Brick Lane, criminal hipsters are being punished for their love of a pop up at Alcotraz Penitentiary, an infamous ‘Prison Cocktail Bar’ in Shoreditch that is now a permanent feature.
Here’s the gossip. And what to expect behind bars.
Queuing up, a rather unexpectedly nice man ticks you off and welcomes you in, it’s only when you approach the heavy door that the commotion begins. ‘Do not bring alcohol’ signs cover the exterior, yet the actual rules are the exact opposite. Without a bottle of your favourite spirit in your pocket you’ll be drinking mocktails all night as this is a strictly BYOB establishment.
The booze-free message is reinforced until the security let their guard down; one quick hint and it’s obvious that the way to sneak in your contraband is by befriending the doorman.
Orange suits on and two bottles of rum hidden, it’s time to meet the Warden. This moustached San Franciscan disdains anything alcoholic. Mobile phones… he’ll turn a blind eye. Cameras… frowned upon but not confiscated. But a bottle of Jack’s finest? Well you might find yourself in the dreaded ‘hole’, a small basement that no one escapes without a bruise or missing limb.
Once shown to your cell, the long-serving inmates pay a quick visit, sneaking out your booze to make a cocktail tailored to your taste – just make sure to tell the Warden its water. Don’t expect anything fancy, you’ll likely get one of the classics with some fruity syrup, but to be fair you’re in jail… lower your expectations.
Your life long sentence comes with a few rounds of beverages, intense grilling and dramatic searches… so make sure to keep your cool and that booze well hidden. Behave and you might stand a chance at getting released.
Slightly tipsy and slightly more confident to the Warden’s intimidating questioning, I finally admitted to my crime. Identity fraud naturally, for pretending to be a convicted criminal.
Our group of jailbirds were finally freed for good behaviour after a terrifying two hours locked in America’s most notorious prison. Is it worth your time? Yes. Your money? Maybe. It depends on how much £39.99 means to you (plus your contraband). But if you want to shock a date, stitch up a workmate or welcome some pals to London, this is a felonious way to do it.
Alcotraz is now permanently stationed on Brick Lane for the foreseeable future with further jails in Manchester, Brighton and Liverpool.