Room 101: London Academy of Bartenders

LAB in Soho: It’s on Old Compton Street and it serves cocktails.  But I’m never going there.

LAB is one of those places that pops up on a local review site with favourable comment.  I’d only ever heard about their cocktails, however, and had no real idea of the venue itself.  Usually a good cocktail is the hallmark of a good bar, which tends to be enough to go on when booking a night out.   So last Saturday, in the run-up to a favourite club night and the return of a somewhat louche “liquid connisseur” friend, we decided to try somewhere new.

Booking online went smoothly.  The general manager even put up with several rqeuests for our table size to be increased; indeed, our numbers doubled within the space of 24 hours.  But, walking to the bar a couple of minutes after our reservation, I received an ominous text from one of our party, James.

Now, James isn’t exactly a miscreant.  He wears a pocket watch and uses words that haven’t been in popular vernacular since the War.  But LAB wouldn’t let him in.  Apparently he wasn’t appropriate clientele.  His text read:

“They have a no ties policy!”.

That isn’t a typo.  He wasn’t allowed INTO a COCKTAIL BAR because he was wearing a TIE.

Almost all of the men in our group that night wore ties.  Indeed, it’s something of a prerequisite these days for being my friend.  So, the idea of complying to this rule was both shocking and abhorrent.

We all but ran across the road to the always delicious Cafe Boheme, which, as has been previously established on this blog, is perfect.

I later wrote a letter of somewhat-complaint to LAB.  The contents, and their reply, are below.

Dear Kyle & Des,
Many thanks for helping with our changing reservation for Saturday night. However, on arriving at the bar, we weren’t allowed in because my male friends were wearing ties! We found this to be quite a confusing and surprising policy, but had no choice but to go somewhere else. We ended up in Cafe Boheme and spent over £300 in the space of two hours!
I hope that this was just a misunderstanding on the night and not your regular policy, as it was in theory a good place to bring people for pre-club drinks.
Shreena Soomarah



Hi Shreena,
Thank you for your feedback.
This is a policy that has been in place a Lab for nearly 12 years now. Unfortunately I cannot see it changing anytime soon.
We try to promote a relaxed environment and don’t consider it a particularly massive ask for a patron to remove a tie before entry to the venue. I suppose a similar comparison would be you asking someone to remove their shoes upon entering your house. This is our house.
I’m sorry if this has offended you.
Kind Regards,
Kyle Gibson
General Manager




Hmmm.  I doubt we’ll be calling again.

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