Nightlife athletes raise Hong Kong’s sporting bar with beer triathlon

With HK$3,000 at stake for the winners and a big bar tab to pay for the losers, some take games of beer pong, flip cup and darts more seriously than others in fun triathlon at Tsim Sha Tsui bar

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2016, 12:25pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 10 February, 2016, 12:25pm

You don’t need to be athletic to take part in the newest triathlon on Hong Kong’s sporting calendar. Good hand-eye coordination and an appetite for drink are assets, though, at Arena Bar by Zerve’s beer triathlon, in which beer pong, flip cup and darts replaced swimming, running and cycling.

A lively crowd gathered for the inaugural event last week, and quickly got into the spirit, starting with rowdy games of rock-paper-scissors as the Tsim Sha Tsui bar’s biggest beer pong table was being set up.

Jason Chan, a director or Arena, hopes the triathlon will become a regular event. “We’re trying to do something new, rather than just having a beer pong or darts tournament like other bars do,” he said, straining to be heard above the din. “This is our first year so it depends on the feedback. If it’s good, maybe we will do it once or even twice a year.”

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Arena, on the strip of bars and restaurants that line Knutsford Terrace, is the younger sister of Zerve Bar & Billiards in Yiu Wa Street, Causeway Bay. The bars’ American-style sports and gaming concept is targeted at groups of friends looking for a night of lively entertainment without going clubbing.

After wetting their whistles, participants paired up for the triathlon, and the first two teams kicked off with beer pong. Competitors take turns to launch a ball across the table into one of their rival’s six half-filled cups. Team A, adopting a serious tone, were a dab hand, landing their first two balls squarely on target, eliciting cheers and high fives. Team B appeared more relaxed, but it was all bluff, and ping pong balls clattered randomly across the floor. Once all 12 balls had been thrown, Team A, who landed the most balls in cups, were the winner and earned their first point. Any beer cup without a ball in it had to be emptied.

The competitors then moved on to cup flip, taking turns to flick a cup, its lip over the edge of the table, to land it upright. The first team to flip both cups upright wins, and Team A’s stern focus quickly earned them a second point.

As the beer pong table was taken over by the next two teams, A and B were ushered over to the electronic dart boards. Each team had three darts, and the highest scoring team, Team A again, grabbed the third and final point, sending them through to the next round. The losing team pay the bar tab.

We’re trying to do something new, rather than just having a beer pong or darts tournament like other bars do
Jason Chan

Teams come and go in the beer triathlon, but losers have the option to sign up for another round in the hopes of recouping their beer money. Arena’s first winners, the team with the most points at the end of the night, staggered away with a HK$3,000 cash prize, while the first runners-up were handed a bottle of Belaire Brut.

According to Chan, the five-month-old bar has become especially popular at weekends. Anyone can ask to join a game of beer pong, and it’s a fun way to meet people in a friendly yet sportsmanlike atmosphere.

Drinking games – particularly liar’s dice – are popular in many local bars, especially in Tsim Sha Tsui and Causeway Bay. Patrons noisily shake and slam down a cupful of dice, hoping to land more of a higher denomination than the previous player. If not, keeping dice guarded, the secret is how well players can bluff so as not to get called out.

“I’ve been to many different [dice] bars. There are a lot, upstairs, but the decoration is not very classy so we wanted to have a bar that’s better decorated,” Chan said.

Screens for watching sports are visible from every angle in Arena bar, and the decor sets the tone: framed baseball shirts and gloves; hockey sticks for door handles. Capping it all are the tailor-made beer pong tables, the largest of which is as long as a standard ping pong table.

The drinks menu is also well curated. Spirits can be ordered by the glass or bottle, and there are numerous signature cocktails and shots. Favourites include the Tom Yum, named after the Thai soup, with a neutral vodka base and a taste of lemongrass with added spice; and the Oolong Baby, a mix of tea and Baileys (both HK$88). Most of the beers are standard.

It is possible to have a free night out at Arena, though. Stick to beer and brush up on your beer pong skills, and your competitors will be paying. It could also raise your stakes for the next triathlon.

Arena Bar by Zerve, 1/F, 10 Knutsford Terrace, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon