A pioneer predicts a gentrified new HillThis weekend may seem like any other, albeit more humid. But generations hence, historians of hedonism may well look back on it as the dawn of a Renaissance: the reinvigoration of Hooker Hill.
Go ahead, laugh. But the fact is, the Hill is getting an ambitious new pub-slash-club this weekend that controverts the tired old notion that Itaewon is dying. Called Lucky Strike, the new joint is on the ground floor of that building on the corner nearest 7-Eleven, above the hip-hop club XO and below the heavy-metal bar Bald Eagle.
If a Hill-gentrifying Renaissance does bloom, its Da Vinci will be Cici Yeo, the owner of Lucky Strike. Ms. Yeo, 29 and strikingly attractive, is mostly known in the neighborhood for her billiards prowess as captain of Space Bar’s team in the local pool leagues.
Ms. Yeo is confident that Itaewon’s heart has a lot more life in it. “I want the Hill to become a place for everyone, a cool place where, like Gangnam, people will feel encouraged to come,” she said.
That wish is reflected in the masterful design she gave Lucky Strike, one that embraces the surrounding sleaze instead of shying away from it. Floor-to-ceiling windows, all openable, make up the club’s two outer sides, the perimeter of which has well-tabled balconies ― perfect for relaxing with an adult beverage and observing the neighborhood’s transformation. However long that takes.
Lucky Strike opened for the first time Wednesday evening, and 30 to 40 pleasantly surprised locals took full advantage. Most hung around the L-shaped bar counter, competing with each other to chat up the many young, bright-eyed servers.
The interior is spacious, in a longish way, and appointed with low-slung tables and chairs. Most patrons seemed to approve of the furniture, but one fault-finder, an Irishman, looked down his nose at it, saying it belonged in the waiting area of an airport. He also complained about the bar’s name.
Yeah ― why name your club after a cigarette brand? “It has nothing to do with smoking,” Ms. Yeo hastened to assert. “It’s all about taking a strike, making an attempt. And it’s about getting lucky. Everybody deserves to get lucky.”
To improve everybody’s odds, Lucky Strike will be open 24 hours a day. During the daytime and early evening, it will be a full-service pub. They’ve even hired an expat chef, a Scotsman, to run the kitchen. Don’t worry; a bartender promises the house specialty will be hamburgers, not haggis.
The official grand opening party is tonight, and, as Ms. Yeo said, everybody is welcome. A warning, though ― there’s no free launch. You’ll have to pay a 10,000 won ($8) cover Friday and Saturday nights, and tonight will be no exception. Other times, entrance is free.
For that 10,000 won, by the way, you’ll get a free cocktail, and tonight you could even win one of many prizes, like a bottle of whiskey. If you get lucky.
by Mike Ferrin