As HK pubs morph into steep, sleek lounges, happy hour loses its mirth. Our roving reporter discovers there are still reasons to be cheerful
With rent skyrocketing and every casual pub in Hong Kong turning into an overpriced lounge, the once ubiquitous idea of an affordable happy hour has devolved into a mere 20 per cent off at best. You can always drink at home via Club 7-Eleven, but where can someone sit in a bar and enjoy a decently priced after-work drink? Here's a Hong Kong Island itinerary.
Start in Central. On the surface, 24-hour bar Insomnia in Lan Kwai Fong might seem like the last resort for early-morning partiers, but venture inside on a Tuesday night and experience possibly the best happy hour in town: free drinks between 9pm and 11pm, in exchange for a business card.
While such an outpouring of benevolence might seem foolhardy, Raphael Yip, administration manager at Step by Step Group, says it's a long-term strategy. "Tuesday's a weekday and one of our quieter times, so we're trying to keep new customers happy by giving them complimentary drinks, and hoping they'll come back over the weekend," Yip says. "The name cards let us build a database, so we can send out future promotions."
Similarly, every Friday and Saturday evening, Psychic Jack Lounge on Wyndham Street offers a free drink in exchange for a password - the secret phrase resides on the bar's Facebook page.
Next stop, Wan Chai. The city's famed red-light district is a regular hot spot for weekday women taking advantage of the inventory of ladies' nights, with bars such as Agave, Carnegie's, Joe Bananas, Skitz and Typhoon all serving free beverages for the fairer sex every Wednesday evening. Men can get their drinking kicks too.
Devil's Advocate has a Standard Chartered night on Wednesdays, with select drinks selling for just HK$20 between 9pm and 1am, if bought with one of the bank's notes. Both Joe Bananas and the Queen Victoria pub have a daily "crazy hour", with beers and mixed drinks also priced at HK$20. Carnegie's has the deal too, but they go one step further with a daily promotion: including Tuesday's vodka night, Friday's Corona night and Saturday's Jager night, where the specified drinks cost HK$10 and standard drinks HK$19.
Finally, finish in Causeway Bay. While the numerous Western-centric bars offer sleek vibes and compendious cocktail variations, those willing to forgo that for a bucket of beers would do best to visit a local-friendly pub: the Bartlock Centre on Yiu Wa Street hosts a number of local upstairs bars where dice, darts and drinks are cheap and cheerful. Our personal favourite: Forever Lounge on Tung Lo Wan Road. With a look as cheesy as its name, and buckets of six beers for HK$138, it's value added.