Hong Kong’s The Aftermath is more than a bar – it’s a creative community

One thing is clear about The Aftermath and its place in Hong Kong – it’s just adding to the culture.

Follow the trail of neon lights hidden at the end of the corridor, and you’ll find disco balls spinning and retro radio playing in The Aftermath – a bar in Hong Kong that centers on building a community where like-minded artists celebrate live music, comedy shows and art events. 

Walking past the walls full of Polaroid pictures, TMS met with Alicia Beale, the owner of The Aftermath, in a lounge decked out with contemporary artwork. She was wearing a sleek white shirt and black jeans, and despite the weirdness of being on camera with a bunch of people asking you questions, she quickly becomes chatty, telling us about how she went from being an English teacher to launching The Aftermath and finding her path in Hong Kong. 

Life hits 30

The Aftermath Hong Kong
Source: Alicia Beale

Beale moved to Hong Kong in her early 20s after finishing her Master of Fine Arts degree in New York City. “A lot of times, people ask me how did I get to Hong Kong. And, like, my first thought is, by an airplane, obviously,” Beale chuckles. 

Actually, it was her best friend who lived in Hong Kong who suggested she move to the city. “She’s just like, ‘Hey, you finished graduate school … and if you want to see the world and travel … why don’t you just come and hang out in Hong Kong for a bit?’” Beale recalls. Her friend pointed out that Hong Kong is always looking for English teachers, so it would be easy for her to get a job and explore the other side of the world. 

“I was like, ‘OK, cool, I'll do that for a few months, and then I just never left for 15 years,” Beale says. “I kind of fell into it. I do love Hong Kong. It's like my home, now. I had my young adulthood here.”

Beale enjoyed the expat lifestyle as an English teacher until she realized she had kind of fallen into becoming a teacher without meaning to. “I just hit a point where I just turned 30, and I was like, ‘Whoa, this is now my career.”

Beale knew that although teaching had brought her to Hong Kong as a means to an end, it wasn’t the end-all of her journey. “It didn't make me feel fulfilled or like I was being the best I could be and actually achieving something,” she says. “I never really thought that's gonna be my career; I'm gonna be an English teacher. So I began to really think about different career ideas and options.” 

From English teacher to entrepreneur 

The Aftermath Hong Kong
Source: Alicia Beale/The Aftermath

But how did Beale enter the F&B industry – a completely different world from academia? Well, it all started with junk parties. 

She’d always loved planning events for friends; in fact, she was the go-to for her friends' group for any shindig, whether it was a dinner party or a Halloween bash. So, naturally, that talent turned into a side hustle by hosting junk boat parties during the summer. It was the first step in understanding the business potential of her natural affinity for event planning.

“A friend of mine was like, “Hey, you should start doing this for people you don’t know,” she remembers.

It’s one thing to plan a party for friends. But, as they say, the only way to learn is by doing. “Seeing what it means to do things as a business was scary at first, and then the more I did it, the more I realized, it's kind of fun.” 

On top of that, she realized it made her have to rein herself in and put organization at the forefront. “But I enjoyed it,” she assures.

“It came to the point to decide – do I want to stay as an English teacher and really work on my advancement in that direction, or do I want to blow it all up, open a bar, even though I never worked in F&B before, and just go for it?” she says. “OK, let’s just go for it.”

The beginning of The Aftermath

The Aftermath Hong Kong
Source: Alicia Beale/The Aftermath

Since deciding to leap into F&B, Beale had an intense hyper-focus. By showing up at start-up events and co-working spaces, watching YouTube videos to learn more and listening to podcasts, she founded The Aftermath, a bar that not only served drinks but also represented her love of art and culture.

But a blend of her own experiences growing up in New Jersey and New York, along with her personal preferences for something a little different, helped shape it into what it’s become.

Her first time hitting Lan Kwai Fong drew attention to that homesickness. “It was just the Top 40 hits. And it was just so uninteresting and kind of bland,” Beale remembers. “I was like, this is fun to be out and everything, but especially coming from New York, where you have places like the Lower East Side, and at that time Brooklyn was up and coming, it was just like, ‘Where’s that vibe, that kind of alternative art culture vibe and energy?” 

Her friend who helped bring her to Hong Kong was the bridge to her discovering the local art community in Fo Tan and Lai Chi Kok, which inspired her to envision the potential of a new space she might create. “She was introducing me to the local Hong Konger arts scene.” 

That’s just where she found the gap she could build on. “When I hung out with some more of my Western English teacher friends, they were like, ‘Hey, we wish we had more connection to arts and culture and music.’ And it always seemed like there was a bit of a disconnect.”

So the ultimate vision for The Aftermath started to gel from her background in planning events and junk parties and where that could go. “I think all that just continued on, and my vision for the space where it could be a cool place for everyone who's doing really fun arts activities can find a home – and it doesn't matter if it's a local Hong Konger or if you're an expat or if you're Nepalese or if you're Filipino or if you're Vietnamese or if you're from an African background.” 

Beale found that Hong Kong, in her experience, was a perfect garden to plant those seeds. “It actually has a very diverse multicultural scene, each sector of Hong Kong's community is doing something really cool and interesting, and it'd be really nice if we had a shared community where everyone can feel like, ‘Hey let's go to The Aftermath and we'll do an improv show, or we can go to The Aftermath and have an afro beats party.”

That centralized location could become a meeting point for cross cultural moments where people might discover something new and the community can become even more diverse and integrated. 

You’ll find it at The Aftermath

The Aftermath
Source: Alicia Beale/The Aftermath

If you’re looking for something to do aside from the usual swanky bar with shots or upscale evening jazz or dusty dive bar, The Aftermath is where you’ll find it.

“It’s a bit of a hodge podge,” Beale chuckles. “We do live music every weekend. We do open mic comedy every Tuesday night. Plus, we have a lot of stand up comedy shows as well.”

Beale refers the room where we’re sitting as the club’s visual arts space, where they exhibit different artists each month. And a lot of those pieces stay after the exhibit and become permanent fixtures, “Just to keep the vibe going,” she says. 

And the real focus is community. Everyone’s invited if they bring something to the table. “We’re pretty open to ideas” Beale says. “If someone wants to host a lip sync or they want to host a variety show or they want to host an acapella night, we’re pretty open, and we’re willing to work with generally most ideas or artists or musicians.”

The pandemic wasn’t going to stop them, either. “Especially during COVID because we couldn’t actually have any events here or live shows, we started doing a lot of live streams. So we asked a lot of the musicians who've been performing with us who are our greatest supporters to join us for some live streams and we put that on YouTube. Also we made an album we recorded here at The Aftermath that we put on to Bandcamp.  And yeah, we did an interview series as well, so we will interview some bands, record them, and then record a performance of them and put that on YouTube.”

Why? “Because the more people know that there’s great music out there, they know the names of the bands, the better for everyone.”

It’s a massive learning curve

The Aftermath Hong Kong
Source: Alicia Beale

After years of operation with Aftermath, Beale found the sweet spot between creativity and business as both a bar owner and art enthusiast. 

 “Well, it's a massive learning curve,” Beale says. “It’s definitely one thing to go from something so structured as a working in the school to something so unstructured as working for yourself because you become the structure.”

She explains the challenges she’s encountered during this journey – running a kitchen, staffing, accounting, logistics, marketing – anything you can name related to doing business. Luckily, she says she’s had some great team members help her along the way, like her bar manager, who she says really trained her

She’s always infused her creativity along the way. As Beale says: “Visualization, conceptualization is very important for a business. You have to have a lot of creativity to visualize, to see the direction of your idea and how it can grow and what it could be. But you still need those very concrete things that are very unsexy. Numbers are very important to business, of course, but a lot of it is just creativity, visualizing.” 

But one thing is clear about The Aftermath and its place in Hong Kong – it’s just adding to the culture.

“We have a very clear, sharp and present concept. We're not trying to be anyone else or to beat anyone else. We're just trying to be who we are.”

Brought to you in partnership with The Aftermath Bar.
Learn more about them here.