Drink

Why dapper folk are invading this 7-Eleven

That line of well-dressed people snaking outside 7-Eleven? It’s not for the siopao.
IMAGE Sam Lim
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Bank Bar may be The Moment Group’s crowning achievement. Even though there are 92 owners in all—that’s right, 92—this is the bar that TMG partner Abba Napa had been dreaming of putting up ever since cocktails replaced clubbing in her adult life. Moving at a hair-raising pace and opening 26 establishments in the last three years, The Moment Group finally unveiled their first bar, found in the same building as their much admired collaboration with sashimi savant Bruce Ricketts. While Mecha Uma was being constructed, they asked about other free spaces in the RCBC Savings Bank building and were shown this warehouse on the ground floor that no one wanted, because it was inaccessible. 

“It looked like an empty ballroom of some decrepit old hotel in London,” Abba says in her droll manner. She immediately began envisioning it with huge mirrors, arches, candles, and graffiti, and the legend of Bank Bar was born. Consider it more of an origin myth, the mood board that gives a provenance to a brand-new bar: during World War 2, a brigand of revolutionaries broke into a cathedral, vandalized the interiors but left behind these antique bottles. Abba and her partners Eli Antonino and Jon Syjuco swept in and repurposed the derelict space into the lounge you see today. The story keeps changing as often as the projected art on the arched concrete walls do. One night it’s Amsterdam, another night it’s Prague. You’re anywhere but a two-year-old building in the middle of BGC. 

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The Nutter Club

One thing it’s not, however, is a speakeasy. “A speakeasy is dark and broody, with low tin ceilings. This is an old hotel in Berlin that got taken over.” Abba laughs at how deep she can get into her confabulations. Even the speakeasy-reminiscent entryway to the bar—you have to go through the 7-Eleven—is intermediated by a fake 7-Eleven stockroom. So when you do finally pull the curtains back, you are delivered, astonished, into this cavernous room with a large candle-lit altar to alcohol. The gilded tables and velvet-clad chairs in plush jewel tones add gravitas to the high exposed ceilings and raw walls scribbled with spray-paint—bombed-out elegance at its most lush. Gorgeous, rebellious and comfy, it naturally draws in its targeted clientele, the mid-30s and above crowd, at least from Mondays to Thursdays.

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The bathroom, you will find, deserves its own velvet rope. “It’s the cornerstone of Bank Bar,” explains Abba about the shiny black unisex commode where penis and breast-shaped handlebars denote which stall you belong to. “I wanted it to be Ally McBeal. You’re supposed to meet your future spouse there.” Maita Quesada, group PR head, attests that the bathroom has indeed been a center of action and is often mistaken for the VIP room (the real VIP room is hidden behind some more heavy curtains). The Glass House, found at the far side of the room, is another fantasy altogether. The area intended for smokers is a glass-partitioned atrium with a James Bond alpine-hideaway feel that lets its occupants still feel part of the main room. On the walls, old black-and-white Italian movies or freaky Japanese films enhance the atmosphere.

“I wanted it to be a lazy bar for old, grown-up, has-been party animals,” Abba says. And that’s exactly what she got.

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Bank Bar is at G/F RCBC Savings Bank Corporate Center, 26th Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Esquire Philippines. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.

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Audrey N. Carpio
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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