We live in a relatively small city and our homes, offices and lifestyles are restricted by the size of our metropolis. But when it comes to our nightlife, a trend has emerged - one that's seeing many escape the confines of enclosed bars to embrace the night air. Outdoor bars have proliferated throughout the city and, unlike many fads, this trend looks like it might be here to stay. 'Outdoor bars have always been popular all over the world, and Hong Kong is catching on,' says James Gannaban, marketing and public relations manager of FINDS Group, which runs the bar of the same name in Lan Kwai Fong and is soon expanding to the Luxe Manor hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. 'People live in such contained conditions that we need to offer our guests some relief from cabin fever.' When pushed, however, Gannaban offers another reason for the sudden increase in outdoor venues: 'Quite simply, the smoking ban is why outdoor bars have increased in the past few years.' Many bar managers might be reluctant to admit it, but it makes perfect sense to migrate your business outdoors because, like it or not, cigarettes and alcohol go hand in hand. Christian Talpo, general manager of restaurant Zuma, says: 'People have changed their habits and many spaces are now thought out with outdoor seating in mind. More people are finding out why it is so cool to be outdoors.' Talpo is speaking figuratively, of course. During the summer, day or night, the last thing you feel is 'cool' outdoors, and the heat and humidity is why many bars have long kept their doors firmly shut and their air conditioners at full blast. Talpo says that although Hong Kong's weather can be unpleasant at times, many outdoor bars are taking their cue from our Asian neighbours. 'Hong Kong's weather is really not that bad. Just look at Singapore,' Talpo says. 'They have a huge amount of outdoor drinking and dining, and hardly any better weather than us. What they did in Clarke Quay is a real eye-opener, with its air conditioning making an outdoor space enjoyable, weather notwithstanding.' Bar owner Hem Gurung agrees. He recently sold his stake in Linq, a popular indoor bar on Central's Pottinger Street, to buy the struggling Bassment venue on Lyndhurst Terrace. He renovated the premises, turning it into a laid-back lounge. A large outdoor area in the back has been fitted out with high-powered fans to battle the summer heat. 'The weather is something we can't really control, and since many bars have been affected by the smoking ban, it just makes sense,' Gurung says. 'Our outside area is easily more popular than the inside.' Gurung spent months searching for the right location. But when he settled on Bassment, its large outdoor space saved him a hefty chunk of change. Christina Li, of E&C Property Agency, says terraces and roofs aren't regarded as 'usable' space. Most banks only consider outdoor areas to be worth 10 per cent to 20 per cent of that of indoor space. So, for example, if one were to buy a 3,000 sq ft commercial space split evenly between indoor and outdoor areas, it would sell for the same price as an indoor space measuring 1,800 sq ft, she explains. So it makes perfect financial sense for bars to head for the great outdoors. With the smoking ban in place, outdoor, air-conditioned, social environments are where it's all happening, and the fact these areas cost less to buy or rent is a boon for bars. As Gannaban says: 'Outdoor bars from Oslo to Marrakech have been around forever. People are organic beings who need organic environments.'