Bar bet on a little alley

The bar business in Hong Kong is a cutthroat one, but John Cooper thinks he's got a winner. Having run watering holes like Cooperstown and L.A. Cafe, Cooper (below) is now betting the little alley down from Lan Kwai Fong will become the next hot spot, especially now that it's cleaned up from its former nickname, 'rat alley'. Level 2 is next to Baby Buddha on Wo On Lane (with the Ben & Jerry's on the corner) and it was officially opened on Friday.

'I didn't want to open a bar in Lan Kwai Fong; it's too crazy,' says Coop, as he's known to friends. 'This street is a good location because it's close to the action but we want a more sophisticated, laid-back kind of feel.'

Well, so far so good. His second-floor private room is consistently booked, sometimes by Canto-pop stars looking for a partying refuge away from the crowds. There's another big reason why Wo On Lane is a much better proposition - cheap rent.