Lab bar to close after 17 years ahead of plans for new concept

lab bar logo

Iconic London bar Lab is to close after 17 years to be replaced by a new concept led by four leading industry names.

After a weekend of closing parties on September 9 to 11, the bar in Old Compton Street will be transformed and reopen in November. More details on the concept and offering are promised soon.

It will be run by the experienced bartending team of Bobby Hiddleston and Mia Johansson in partnership with Edmund Weil and Rosie Stimpson, the founders of London bars, the Nightjar and Oriole.

The new owners will be working with Lab on organising the closing weekend which will feature guest shifts by bartending legends who have worked behind the bar over the two decades.

One of the pioneers of the revival in cocktail bars in the 1990s, Lab was a training ground of leading bartenders including Dré Masso, Andrea Montague and Tim Stones. Standing for “London Academy of Bartenders”, Lab was originally opened in 1999 by Douglas Ankrah and Richard Hargroves.

Tim, who is now global brand ambassador for Beefeater, said: “Lab has been the start of many bartenders’ careers. If you look at the alumnus of the place, it reads like a who’s who of drinks industry legends.

“I was lucky enough to spend the best part of four eye-opening years there and it became a turning point in my career. I still proudly reference it any chance I get, such was its influence.

“Lab will always be a special place to me and I will be sad to see it go. Having seen the passion and dedication that Bobby and Mia put into their drinks, service and venues I am looking forward to the great things they will do there. I will be among the first through the door.”

Bobby and Mia will lead the concept and offering of the new venue. Both are firmly established within the London bar scene and have worked at leading bars around the world.

The two originally worked together at Milk & Honey in London before moving to New York City where Bobby became head bartender at The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog in the financial district while Mia opened the bar at Lafayette. Together, they opened High Water in Stoke Newington in London in 2014.

In a statement, they said: “We’re very excited for the project ahead and the new plans we have for a venue that we know means a lot to many in the industry.

“It’s great to be working with our new partners Edmund and Rosie, and we can’t wait to join everyone for a final get together at Lab.”

Through their business Speakeasy Entertainment, Edmund and Rosie opened the award-winning Nightjar in 2010 which went on to become one of the top three of the World’s 50 Best Bars. In November 2015 they opened their second site Oriole, which was named best new international cocktail bar at the Spirited Awards at Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans in July.

They said in a statement: “We’re very happy to be working with Bobby and Mia. They are both very talented and we can’t wait to see their vision for the new bar come to life. We’ll be joining everyone for a final farewell of Lab, before embarking on this new project together.”

Details of the guest bartenders returning to Lab and the closing parties will be announced shortly via social media: follow @LABclosingparties on Instagram and @labclosingparty on Twitter to stay updated.

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