We are almost at the end of such a tumultuous year. And historically, my bylines would include stories about travels far away, and don’t get me wrong – they did. Just not as much as expected. This year, I talked about stronger subjects like the pandemic, systemic racism, healthcare and sustainability. Upon reflection, I recognized that these themes all have global implications. Each and every person in the world was and has been affected in some way. We have all shared the emotional narratives of loss and grief with the common thread being the resiliency of people.
2020 threw a wrench in everyone’s plans. For some, more than others. For this last piece of the year, I talked to Lynn Lin, the cofounder of Electric Bing Sutt, an award-winning bar in Beirut, Lebanon.
Bing Sutt in Cantonese translates to Ice Room in English. “A very authentic neighbourhood diner,” as Lynn tells me, “a place where people catch up over coffee and butter toast and stay until the late night. As I am very interested in Hong Kong culture and Wong Kar Wei movies (many scenes have been filmed at Bing Sutt’s), I wanted to make Electric Bing Sutt a modern Asian/Middle Eastern diner that will gather people from all paths together for a fun time.” In the summer of 2018, from Beijing to Beirut, Lynn along with her husband and business partner Jad Ballout and their friend, Andre Gerges did just that.
Successfully marrying Lynn and Jad’s cultural ethnicities into the ‘Asian Middle Eastern All-Day Bar’, they served Satay Chicken Bombs along with their best-selling, gin-based Ginza Affair fused with exotic Asian and Middle Eastern ingredients. In a short period of time, Electric Bing Sutt became a local hot-spot that ran a coveted queue in the historical old town district of Beirut. Lynn remembers, “We could never forget those nights where everyone was smiling, everyone was dancing, everyone was in love with each other.”
Playing New York Funk music and serving K-Pop Bloody Mary’s and Electric Sake Martini’s until the early morning hours, the ambience and libations were hard to beat. And the critics agreed, citing Electric Bing Sutt as one of the World’s Best Bars in 2019 and 2020.The bar hosted many worldwide guests including Alex Kratena of Tayēr + Elementary, England (#5 on the 2020 World’s Best Bar list) and Agung Prabowo of The Old Man, Hong Kong (#15 on the 2020 World’s Best Bar list).
Early in 2020, the pandemic temporarily dimmed the lights at the bar, yet the explosion at the Port of Beirut in August completely shut Electric Bing Sutt down. Along with wiping out warehouses at the port, killing 200 people and injuring 50, the building that contained Electric Bing Sutt was completely destroyed. The roof was blown out, shrapnel left two huge holes in the façade and the owners were left to rescue all of their equipment and stock before the building collapsed. Luckily, no employees or customers were injured. “We lost our bar that we put so much love into, it was devastating, we felt like there was no way to continue and life was full of darkness.”
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we must get back up. We must rebuild. And through genuine connections grows a resilient community. In September, Electric Bing Sutt launched a limited edition collaboration with Empirical Sprits (Copenhagen) for their Yalla Habibi Rise Again cocktail, a love letter to Lebanon and the strength of its diverse people. And after a successful Go Fund Me campaign started by industry friends, Nico de Soto from Danico Paris and Dinos Constantinides from the Lost & Found Drinkery in Cyprus, Lynn, Jad and Andre were able to pick up the pieces. “With the generated funds from amazing people from all around the world, we were able to wipe our tears away and get back to work.” With a brand-new space and a new concept, the bar will not be a complete reboot. Dead End Paradise will bring the Asian/Middle Eastern fusion that Electric Bing Sutt was known for with the addition of a fun Tikki dive bar feel into the mix. This of course has been a process from concept to creation and after 6 long months, Dead End Paradise is set to open its doors early in the New Year.
As devastating and trialling this year has been, this is more than just a story. It is a reflection of the people we have become. This year, has challenged us to find the opportunities in the obstacles. To seek new chapters and take leaps of faith. As we set our sights on a new year, which will bring us new challenges – I am confident that the lessons of resiliency throughout the world will ring as loudly as we all rise from our ashes and rebuild.